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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

4 5 0 9 Grouping wayward students may backfire, warn psychologists

A lack of proper role models and professional counsellors in day-care centres set up in schools will negate the whole point of having such centres, say experts.
PETALING JAYA: Two psychologists are cautiously optimistic over plans to set up day-care centres for secondary school students from “non-conducive home environments” in an attempt to reduce social ills among youths.
They said those who mooted the idea meant well, but expressed concern that grouping these teenagers could backfire.
Caroline Gomez, a consultant educational psychologist from HELP University, said if young people with challenging behavioural difficulties were placed together in one centre, they would lack proper role models to emulate.
Instead, it would foster negative behaviour because they would be surrounded by only those who present themselves with challenging behavioural difficulties.
Gomez was asked to comment on MIC president Dr S Subramaniam’s plan to introduce such centres to provide after-school facilities and activities for students.
The centres are being planned for selected schools in Johor Bahru, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan.
Gomez said putting a group of young people with challenging behavioural difficulties together could skew the government’s plan of inculcating a sense of belonging.
She added that this would segregate them from mainstream education and support.
She noted that young people with challenging behavioural difficulties come with emotional and psychological baggage which requires professional support and guidance.
Gomez said people should not just focus on academic grades because these students may excel in different areas, such as music, sports and the arts. She added that their strengths need to be validated.
“Students should be given the opportunity to showcase their personal talents.”
Doing so will boost their self-esteem and enable them to feel more positive about themselves and their future, she added.
Gomez said a clear vision of what the day-care centre intended to do needs to be in place, outlining the long-term and short-term goals, specific objectives, day-to-day running and implementation.
Geshina Ayu Mat Saat, a criminologist from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), voiced similar fears, saying that bringing troubled students together could see them “making more mischief”.
She also said setting up day-care centres alone may be insufficient, pointing out that it requires a lot of manpower to ensure such centres operate smoothly.
Gomez and Geshina concurred that it would be better to have a good and sustainable plan that addresses the root causes of troublesome behaviour and attitudes.
First, proper assessment is needed to identify the root causes of such problematic behaviour.
Geshina said: “It is only through such assessments that youths’ specific needs and problems can be addressed, be it a need for volunteer tutors for difficult subjects, trainers to develop skills for children with learning or developmental problems, or counsellors for a myriad of socio-psychological issues.”
Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairman Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim, meanwhile, welcomed the move, stating it would help curb gangsterism among students.
A day-care centre, she said, would allow these students to fill their time productively. She suggested that the centres include soft skills training and employ clinical psychologists to counsel the students.
“Counsellors in school do not have such expertise. A clinical psychologist would be better suited for such tasks as they have more experience.”
Afiqah Farieza Abdul Aziz contributed to this article. -FMT

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