Jacobs shapes discipline policy and care unit to counter violent students.

POSTED: 03/14/13 12:16 PM

St. Maarten – Reacting to the concerns of the Windward Islands Teachers Union (Witu) that was published in yesterday’s edition on violence against teachers, Education Minister Silveria Jacobs has reported that her ministry is working on a discipline policy for all schools and a series of solutions.

Some of the behaviors that the union alluded to are displayed because children model themselves after what they have seen adults do, the minister indicated. She said that while it is fact that disturbing behavior is practiced at all schools, her ministry is yet to receive formal complaints of this nature.
“While some of the reports about these misbehaving students have reached the Ministry, to date no official report had been brought forward by the Division of Public Education, the parents or teachers.”

Jacobs said that since assuming office she has been collaborating with various departments to better equip teachers to cope with unruly students. She also visited schools in Barbados to see how they are dealing with similar issues.

Currently Division of Educational Innovations and Student Support Services is busy working on a pilot project in the form of an educational care unit.
“Students who have become such that they would be unable to be controlled at school would no longer be just suspended and stay home but would be taken up into an educational care unit which would give them social emotional care,” she said.

The care unit is not meant to be a “dumping ground,” the minister noted, but will utilize counseling, arts and craft, sports and academics in the afternoon to rehabilitate students. Though in its initial stages, she expects the project to be fully launched by the start of the 2013/2014 school year. “While the union was not happy with the fact that psychologists were brought in from the St. John’s University to test the students at Prins Willem Alexander, it is important to note that to properly address the behavior that the students exhibit we must know what causes it. Assessments must take place in order for individualized educational programs to be designed to meet the needs of each student,” the minister added.

Last week Witu severely criticized the education ministry for bringing psychologists to the island, when they are readily available here, and because it saw no need for testing of children who were already a part of a special needs institution. The union believes that priority should have been placed on the lack of substitute teachers at that school.

While this school has been designed for special education, students were only tested to enter the institution and no further testing took place to guide their learning, the minister rebutted. Students with learning problems and behavioral problems are altogether in one school, as well.

An increase in teaching assistants which foundation based education requires is also a solution. Jacobs said they are lagging behind in this area especially because of finance.

The ministry is therefore collaborating with the University of St. Martin so that teachers who are in training will be able to fill this role especially those who would have gotten financial assistance in their studies.

The minister assured that they will get a financial contribution for teaching. But if the demand exceeds the current supply of teaching assistants, Jacobs said that they will be advertising teaching vacancies, locally and internationally.

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