The Ministry of Education maintains the view that “Education is everyone’s business’’ and continues to welcome dialogue with all members of society as stakeholders in education.

However, productive dialogue between the ministry and stakeholders in education can only take place when these persons and organisations conduct the necessary due diligence and research prior to making pronouncements.

The nation’s students only stand to benefit when discussions propel us further along the education continuum. It is critical that when a conversation on education is started that misleading information is not peddled as fact.

The Express commentary, headlined “Addressing bullying, fighting in schools”, penned by Andy Johnson (February 12), offered suggestions to the ministry that have been established practice for well over ten years. Since 2009, the National Schools Code of Conduct has guided schools in T&T. This policy, revised in 2018 to incorporate evolving social trends, clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities of school personnel, standards of behaviour and range of consequences. Further, it supports the school-based management approach to government in school.

As stated in the policy’s introduction, “The National School Code of Conduct therefore sets the context and provides the structure for the development and implementation of school-level discipline policies (discipline plan/discipline matrix) with reference to regulations under the Education Act, national policies, circular memoranda and guidelines as issued by the Ministry of Education.”

Mr Johnson’s article, which quotes the president of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Psychologists, Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor, suggests that neither himself nor Dr Nakhid-Chatoor had access to the National Schools Code of Conduct, a public document that is available on the ministry’s website and at all schools throughout the country. According to his article, Dr Nakhid-Chatoor states, “The Ministry of Education needs to put a policy in place to address bullying and fighting in all schools. Bullying and anti-bullying procedures. And the policy must be that when this occurs, this is what the teacher…the principal does.”

In continuing the discussion and suggesting some contributors to misbehaviour by students, Mr Johnson quotes Dr Nakhid-Chatoor as saying, “a child may have deep-seated problems, such as Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)”. However, a subsequent statement in the article seems to contradict the doctor, as the condition is described as rare, affecting up to ten per cent of children who face severe neglect.

The opinions represented in this article are symptomatic of an argument that is reaching and ambiguous in direction.

On February 11 during a media conference held by the Ministry of Education, Minister of Education Anthony Garcia, acknowledged that there were developing challenges and outlined the ministry’s way forward with the support of Student Support Services Division. It would be imperative for Mr Johnson, and the contributors sought out for comment, to familiarise themselves with policy and practice before making comments that are unsubstantiated.

The Ministry of Education continues to encourage dialogue with stakeholders committed to the development of access, equity, quality and good governance in the education sector, and urges stakeholders to be responsible and do the necessary research.

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