Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 9 August 2020

School detention an 'outdated' measure, say UAE experts

Teachers in the Emirates are increasingly using meditation or counselling sessions to help pupils

Joseph Kotarski, principal of West Yas Academy in Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National    
Joseph Kotarski, principal of West Yas Academy in Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National    

Schools across the UAE increasingly view detention as an outdated method of correcting disruptive behaviour, experts said.

Teachers argued a far more effective solution was to help build a more positive relationship with pupils, engaging with parents at the same time.

Speaking to The National, several schools in the Emirates said they no longer used detention as a means of addressing poor behaviour.

Under Ministry of Education rules, the practice of keeping pupils back after hours is banned, although some schools still use detentions during break times.

Joseph Kotarski, principal at West Yas Academy in Abu Dhabi, said he believed detentions represented an antiquated approach to improving conduct.

If a teacher has an issue with a particular behaviour, it does no good to simply pipeline the pupil to the headmaster. That does not help pupils grow.

Joseph Kotarski, principal at West Yas Academy, Abu Dhabi

“Detention is a very outdated way of building relationships and we moved away from that to focus on positive relationship building,” he said.

“Detention does not solve a problem and does not engage the human side of what is at the heart of the situation.

“We first need to understand the behaviour of the child and give them a chance to speak.

"If a teacher has an issue with a particular behaviour, it does no good to simply pipeline the pupil to the headmaster. That does not help pupils grow.”

UAE schools are not the only institutions altering their positions on how to better manage disruptive classroom behaviour.

In the US, some schools have introduced meditation sessions to help pupils, while others employ counsellors to address specific needs.

At Gems Modern Academy in Dubai, pupils are encouraged to take part in breathing and reflection exercises known as mindfulness sessions.

If, for example, a pupil fails to leave a building during a fire drill, he or she is asked to research the consequences of their behaviour and give a presentation to their class rather than face detention.

“The D-word is usually a much dreaded word at our school and we try not to resort to detention as it rarely serves the purpose," said Nargish Khambatta, principal at the school.

"Instead of punishments we believe in redressal measures.”

This year, Jumeira Baccalaureate School in Dubai said it also took the decision to avoid using detentions.

Teachers said they noticed the method failed to have a long-term, positive effect and pupils often repeated their poor behaviour.

Now, staff focus their efforts on conversing with pupils and trying to explain the need for an improvement.

Parents are also encouraged to take an active role in addressing concerns if a particular behavioural issue shows no sign of changing.

“Previously, if a pupil did not do their homework, or was not prepared for class, the teacher would give them a subject-allocated detention at break or lunch time,” said Leonie Riley, head of houses at the secondary school.

“Now we have a tailored approach to the punishment we use for the pupils and each child is dealt with on an individual basis.

“If the behaviour is repeated a third time, we ask the parents to come to the school and have a conference between the pupil, the teacher and the parent.

“All three parties work together to reach the best possible outcomes.”

Updated: February 25, 2020 12:51 PM

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