IT is laudable that the Education Ministry is planning to better reward performing school heads and principals. But at the same time, I think it is time society set more realistic expectations and understand the demands and responsibilities that school heads face.
Being overly demanding when it comes to achievements and being unduly sensitive to the shortcomings a school may face can be demoralising to conscientious school heads and principals.
Running a school effectively and efficiently is not easy. A school head has to be a leader, manager, disciplinarian, counsellor, curriculum and pedagogy expert, financial planner, co-curricular activities facilitator, sports person, negotiator, safety official and many, many more. The tasks are manifold and the responsibilities immensely huge. It is very time consuming, energy sapping and emotionally taxing!
A friend who once served as principal of a secondary school reminisces: “Each day in school is like going through a mine field. One careless step and a mine will explode right in your face.”
That school heads have to work in a pressure cooker-like environment is most unfortunate. The Chinese have a common saying in Mandarin which when translated means: “Heading a school is beyond a man's work”. There is indeed some truth in it.
The reality on the ground is that inspite of all the precautions and care being taken, accidents and unbecoming events sometimes do happen to students within and outside the school compound. When this occurs, fingers are quick to point at the school head.
Accusations of irresponsibility and negligence are often hurled at the school authority. At times, court cases are initiated, and this has led some over-cautious and over-protective school heads to completely disallow outdoor co-curricular activities that carry any element of risk.
Many discipline problems do not originate in school. Such problems are brought in from outside. Schools don't teach gangsterism, vandalism, drugs or sexual immorality. Yet, when youngsters in school uniform are caught in these acts, their schools are blamed for the misdeeds.
It is wrong to think that everyone who passes through a school gate is instantly transformed into an angel. Let's not forget that he or she still carries his or her baggage from home and outside. There is just so much a school can do or change. Society and home should not simply shrug off their responsibility by making school the scapegoat for all things wrong in society.
LIONG KAM CHONG,