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State reforms tackle modern discipline problems at schools
A File Photo shows students in class in a public school in Beirut, Lebanon. (The Daily Star)
A File Photo shows students in class in a public school in Beirut, Lebanon. (The Daily Star)
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BEIRUT: To combat a spike in drug abuse and discipline problems in the country’s public school system, the Education Ministry began Monday overhauling the national curriculum and training teachers to understand this generation’s coming-of-age problems.

The difficulties of growing up in 2012 are diverse, from alcoholic energy drink use to explicit Internet content.

The challenges have often left teachers and school administrators frustrated and at a loss over how to discipline students and prepare them for adult life.

The ministry held a training seminar for several hundred school administrators Monday to begin the process of integrating a broad array of child safety classes into the country’s curriculum and make the school system more responsive to the problems students face today.

“It’s not like my childhood, now with the Internet and media, with parents leaving their kids to maids to raise them. We are having problems,” said Imad Ashkar from the Education Ministry. “In the past the teacher would shout and the kids will stop, but today it’s not working.”

Ministry officials said they felt a real need to respond after a pattern of drug abuse and discipline problems over the past years have confounded school administrators.

Ashkar said many of the problems were rooted in kids struggling to come terms with Western technologies and culture. Teacher response to questions such as cyber bullying and alcoholic energy drink use was lacking, he noted.

“Kids are on quantum speed and teachers are like a turtle,” he said.

Ashkar said they decided to bring in a Western organization to help solve the problems. “From where the problem is imported we are trying to import the solution.”

The Education Ministry decided to bring in Kidproof, a Canadian safety education business, to bring teachers up to speed and help them find measured responses to the problems.

If principals approve of the program, the training is likely to be integrated into the curriculum by the beginning of next year.

The workshop Kidproof representatives held for school administrators Monday covered a range of topics, from child kidnapping and trafficking, bullying, gun safety, smoking and new types of drug use.

Workshop leader Darine el-Masri said the focus of her training is on the problems kids are facing at home and school right now.

“Education has to be equal to what the kids are living,” Masri said.

She said basic knowledge of what children confront in everyday situations isn’t taught at school.

Masri said lessons on what to do if a child sees a gun aren’t available despite the large number of weapons in the country.

She added that the limited number of school computers means there is little training for children on Internet etiquette or safety despite the vast number of youth who go online regularly.

She said instructors should take the initiative to address problems when they arise even if they don’t confront the issues directly at school.

“It’s our role as educators to give them the tools necessary so they can protect themselves,” Masri said.

The reception from principals seemed broadly positive. Many spoke during the workshop of the frustration they felt on a daily basis with students becoming tempted by new vices that they were barely familiar with.

Principal Mazen Malaeb said educators need to know more about problems kids face at home, not just at school.

“It’s very important and necessary.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 11, 2012, on page 4.
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