MoE considering merit/demerit system to fight indiscipline and violence in TT schools

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MoE considering merit/demerit system to fight indiscipline and violence in TT schools

In a bid to stave off the issues of school indiscipline and violence in some of our nation’s schools, the Ministry of Education is proposing a merit/demerit system.

During a media conference at the Ministry’s headquarters in Port of Spain on Friday, Chief Education Officer (CEO) Dr Peter Smith said incidents of violence were plaguing roughly five per cent of the country’s 820 schools. However, he admitted that the incidents they had seen broadcast over traditional and social media are concerning.

He said the multi-disciplinary technical team, convened in April and led by Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, recently submitted a draft of the national school matrix which identifies three levels of student infractions – minor infractions, such as dress code violations; major infractions, such as disorderly or disruptive conduct; and severe infractions, such as fights and sexual harassment.

He said the ministry is also considering a merit/demerit system and has examined preventative strategies, including peer counselling, student support, parenting in education and a prefect system.

Smith said incidents of violence in 2018-2019, the most infractions occurred with form two students at 25 per cent and form three students at 22 per cent. In comparison, more incidents occurred among form one students in 2021-2022.

He also said fights with or without weapons, the use of drugs and sexual misconduct were some of the most common infractions.

Regarding the demerit/merit point-based system, Dr Smith said, “Basically, what it looks at, in some instances, rewarding students for positive behaviour and other instances they are given demerit points for unacceptable behaviours and that’s the gist of it.”

Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly noted that the system is not a novel one and currently exists at many schools.

“I remember when I was a student at SAGHS (St Augustine Girls’ High School), we had commendation and order marks. So you were three times late, you got an order mark and so you did your best not to get an order mark and that kept you in line and disciplined,” she said.
“It’s the same type of system, so it’s not a new thing. It’s something that exists in schools and the possibility is whether we can use it at all schools and it’s something that the stakeholders will also be commenting on.”

Dr Smith said a meeting with principals of particularly afflicted schools has been carded for June 9 to address challenges and provide any necessary resources, such as safety officers, full or increased complement of security officers, dedicated counsellors, school social workers and special education instructors.