Getting back to grips with schools

▪️ Getting back to grips with schools ▪️ European boomerangs

Many people are rightly concerned over the loss of certain “old” values at our schools. A global problem, to be honest. The rise of what can be termed as the  AI generation has seen parents and teachers bewildered by the new challenges that the education sector is facing today.

Students of all ages are no longer the disciplined, obeying objects that most of us were. Teachers will tell you how, even among the youngest of students, there are signs of unrest, of a negative attitude to what they say and propose, and of an innate desire to just do their thing and to hell with the future. This may sound as an exaggeration, but the signs are all there to be seen and felt by those who work closely with children at all levels of schooling.

Needless to say, we have our education gurus and leaders within the teaching sector who have long been working on issues that may be percieved as the cause for this worrying phenomenon. It is not easy. Some of the resistance to any sort of change to stricter agendas comes from the most unlikely – parents, some from among the teaching staffs, and, of course, the students themselves.

Communication utensils and IT play a huge part in this on-going classroom gloom. It’s certainly invigorating to see our schools being refurbished and upgraded to 21st century state-of-the-art models, provided with all the services and facilities, free transport, stylish, informal uniforms, and run by well-meaning, committed professionals. But then, when it comes to just asking a student to switch off his or her smartphone during lesson instantly turns into an immediate crisis, a clash of heads which does not necessarily mean the bigger heads win. Again, parents and guardians butt in to object “because they want to monitor their kids even during school hours”.

Always a leader in such matters, the UK recently decided to ban mobile phones in schools across England. Authorities have issued a guidance to head teachers in what has been described as an attempt to minimise disruption and improve behaviour in classrooms. The new rules give backing to teachers in prohibiting the use of mobile phones throughout the school day, including at break times. Students who breach the ban face detention as well as having their phones confiscated for as long as deemed necessary.

The guidance also gives teachers the power to search bags and rucksacks and the legal protection from being sued by parents.

Another school issue in many parts of Europe and the US that threatens to disrupt the whole education sector is religion, specifically in connection with prayer rituals in classes with a marked diversity of students from different religions, traditions, and social modes. This time it is France that gets the “first” credit for tackling the whole issue in the usual French way: France is a secular country and so religious clothing items such as the hijab are banned from school. This of course does not go down well with Muslim parents, but they have to accept the rules if they want to give their children access to free education.

Weeks ago, a controversy erupted in Italy where many schools actually chose to close on Eid al-Fitr, the last day of Ramadan. With most of the closed schools having almost 80 per cent of their student population adhering to Islam, it was still considered an insult to Italians. Since when does Catholic Italy consider an Islamic celebration as a public holiday, many critics and media pundits were asking.

Back in the UK, a Muslim student lost, rightly say I, her High Court challenge against a ban on prayer rituals. The girl took action after what has been known as Britain’s “strictest” school prohibited the practice when students started kneeling on their blazers in the playground. The judge ruled, again rightly, the ban was not discriminatory. The judgement was hailed as “a victory for all schools” and “a victory for common sense”.

Perhaps we are lucky that where religion in class is concerned, there seems to be quite a serene atmosphere. Maltese schoolrooms are today also filled by foreign students from different nations and religions. Our authorities have also been wise to act appropriately when it comes to even attending religion lessons. This is an issue that does not only concern students from other religions and denominations, but even Maltese attendees whose parents and/or themselves do not want to participate in religion lessons. For most of these students, social ethics as a subject has taken the place of religion, a happy compromise if there ever was one.

AI, IT, mobile phones, sustained discipline, teacher protection, and other issues will continue to haunt the education sector everywhere, not least in Malta and Gozo as the very essence of schooling is threatened by such growing processes as islamification, securalism, and generational attitudes. Getting to grips with all that is a challenge every society on earth has to face one day or another.

European boomerangs

It is obvious that all the sanctions on Russia from the European Union have effectively backfired. Not only has the Russian wartime economy grown faster than any other country’s, but the sanctions have impacted badly on European brands, manufacturers, industries, and other enterprises. The huge Russian market was a magnetic attraction to them.

Now that they have lost all that, it seems the European Union, with Ursula von der Leyen at its traumatised head, has decided to target China in what could be another lethal boomerang for European production. The bloc has initiated a raft of investigations against China and tariffs on Chinese electric vehicle imports could be imposed in the summer.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Sputnik/Sergei Savostyanov/Pool via REUTERS

One wonders, do Europeans actually agree with the Von der Leyen diktat on this one? Do they actually believe Chinese TV sets and mobile phones are watching them all day, washing machines humming Chinese tunes, and Chinese cars spying on their every daily chore? Check out all your Chinese things. You may even find a hundred Chinese agents ready to pounce on you.

Main photo: Pixabay

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