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Jurnal Pendidikan 2005, Universiti Malaya

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AWARENESS OF ISSUES RELATED TO RIGHTS OF STUDENTS


Tie Fatt Hee
University of Malaya
Khor Kong You Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Tasik
Permai, Ampang

Abstrak
Tujuan kajian ini ialah untuk mengenal pasti tahap kesedaran pelajar
mengenai isu-isu terpilih yang berkaitan dengan hak pelajar. Subjek kajian
ini melibatkan 50 orang pelajar Tingkatan Empat di sebuah sekolah
menengah di negeri Selangor. Kesedaran pelajar mengenai hak pelajar
dinilai dari tiga dimensi iaitu kesedaran tentang:pelaksanaan disiplin di
sekolah; keselamatan sekolah; dan, komunikasi mengenai undang-undang
dan peraturan oleh sekolah. Dapatan kajian menunjukkan bahawa pelajar
mempunyai tahap kesedaran yang sederhana dalam dimensi tersebut.
Walau bagaimanapun, kajian ini menunjukkan bahawa tidak terdapat
perbezaan yang signifikan di antara dimensi tersebut dari segijantina dan
latarbelakang akademik.

INTRODUCTION
The Convention on Rights of the Child (1989) states that forms of discipline meted
out must comply with the requirement that they be consistent with the child's rights
and dignity. The Convention also expressed that the aim of education is to develop the
child's personality, talents, mental and physical abilities to the maximum. In the context
of Malaysia, the Federal Constitution enshrines a child's right to receive an education
without any form of discrimination. The statutory provision implies that the child is
vested with legal rights that cannot be compromised under any circumstances. Other
provisions governing the legal rights of students are encapsulated in the administrative
orders and guidelines issued by the Ministry of Education. These include the guidelines
on implementation and enforcement of discipline in school such as the Education (School
Discipline) Regulations (1959), General Guidelines Concerning School Discipline (1981),
and administrative circulars concerning school uniform and corporal punishment.
Specific regulations also exist related to management of students in other aspects such
as the procedures governing enforcement of discipline. Regulations 4 and 5 of the
Education Regulations (School Discipline) 1959 specify that the headmaster, principal or
a representative is responsible for meting out disciplinary action against a student.

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Awareness of Rights among Students


Incomplete and vague information hinder students' understanding of school rules and
regulations. Sometimes, the information is not communicated in a proper manner and
this may result in delinquent behavior as there is a general lack of understanding and
awareness of the prohibitions involved. As such, schools are required to ensure the rules
are set out in specific terms and distributed to all students. This measure would lessen
educators' stress due to the rise in incidences of bullying, gangsterism, and fighting among
students. Although a school is vested with the formal authority to punish students for
violating school regulations, it must adhere to the procedures established by the Ministry
of Education. This is vital to ensure no breach of the rights of the students.
Unfortunately, there may be violations of the legal rights of the students when the
school authority does not have a clear understanding of the regulations related to the
disciplinary procedures. This poses a tremendous risk as the likelihood of a legal suit
arises. Nevertheless, students need an appropriate level of awareness pertaining to their
legal rights before they can initiate court proceedings against the school. Students at
present are required to purchase a copy of the school's regulations related to discipline. This
measure seeks to foster greater awareness and understanding of the rules and regulations.
Consequently, students may be aware of the different types of permitted and prohibited
behavior. An appropriate understanding of the punishment for each particular offence
may act as a deterrent. Student awareness of issues related to their rights is important as
it indicates to what extent students are aware of their basic fundamental rights. School
authorities may have to re-examine existing approaches to discipline when there is a high
level of awareness.
Purpose of the Study
This study seeks to examine to what extent students are aware of issues related to their
rights. The rights of students are examined from the perspectives of enforcement of
discipline, school safety and communication of rules and regulations to students. The
research questions are as follows:
(a) To what extent are students aware of issues related to their rights?
(b) Is there a significant difference in the awareness of the issues in terms of gender
and academic background?
LITERATURE REVIEW
The rights of a student encompass the right to one's privacy. Drug testing, in particular
urine testing, is considered an intrusion into the privacy of the individual. Edmonson
(2002) reported that only a small percentage of parents challenged a school's policy
on mandatory urine testing for drug abuse. In a study among 169 schools, 97.6% of
the schools reported that parents did not challenge the decision to make urine testing
mandatory. The majority of the parents and students concur that the policy acts to deter
drug abuse among students.

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In Malaysia, a study among 5,754 Form Two and Form Four students was conducted by the
Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) in 40 secondary schools (Suruhanjaya,
2004). About 51.9% of the students reported that corporal punishment was practised in
school to control discipline. The study showed that more than 80% of the students are
aware that the Federal Constitution prohibits any form of discrimination based on gender,
race and religion. However, when discrimination exists in certain situations, about 12.9%
of the students state that it always occurs while 50.7% state that it sometimes occurs.
Male students (67.5%) state that they felt more discriminated against compared to female
students (60.5%). About 81.9% of the students felt that they were safe at school. The role
of the school in fostering a high level of safety awareness is significant.

METHODOLOGY
A questionnaire was administered to a group of 50 Form Four students. It consisted of
two sections. Section A was related to student background while section B consisted of
thirty items related to the situation in the school. The subjects provided their responses
based on a five point Likert scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Student
awareness was examined from three dimensions, with each dimension comprising ten
items. A total of fifty students, 24 male and 26 female, participated in the study.
RESULTS
The Enforcement of Discipline
The results indicated that the item 'expulsion for smoking' recorded the highest mean
(Table 1). This showed that students tend to be highly aware of the type of enforcement
meted for the offence of smoking in the school premises. On the other hand, the mean was
the lowest for the item 'punished by made to run around the school field'. The findings
indicated that this form of punishment is riot practised in the school. Overall, students
tend to have an adequately high level of awareness on aspects related to the enforcement
of discipline.
Table 1
Mean Score on Aspects Related to the Enforcement of Punishment
Item
Expulsion for smoking
Failure to wear a tie
Talking in class while the teacher is teaching
Wearing of a serban
Not completing homework
Prohibition against use of 'liquid paper'
Failure to bring books
Incorrect answer
Language used by teachers
Punished by made to run around the school field

Mean Score
4.28
3.82
3.58
3.56
3.30
2.98
2.52
1.94
1.64
1.58

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School Safety
The highest mean score was recorded for the item 'safety at the bus stop' (Table 2). It
indicates that teachers often remind students of the need to be careful about their safety
while waiting for the bus. The lowest mean score was obtained for the item 'threaten',
that is, students do not appear to face any threats from their peers related to completion
of assignments.
Table 2
Mean Score on Aspects related to School Safety
Item
Safety at the bus stop
Confiscation of dangerous equipment
Talk on safety
Fire-works
School cleanliness
Outsiders
School gate
Fire drill
Teacher absent during Physical Education lesson
Threaten

Mean Score
4.44
4.34
4.30
4.16
4.04
3.12
2.66
2.08
2.02
1.38

Communication of Rules and Regulations


Communication of rules and regulations to students is a vital aspect of the procedure
related to school management. The item 'the school as a non-smoking area' has the highest
score (Table 3). Students were aware of this regulation established by the Ministry of
Education as the school seems to have taken measures to communicate this regulation
to all students. On the other hand, the item 'caning without being informed of the wrong
committed' scored the lowest. This indicates that students are generally notified of the
type of violation that was committed before corporal punishment was meted out.
Table 3
Mean Score on Aspects Related to the Communication of Rules and Regulations to Students
Item
The school as a non-smoking area
Inform parents prior to punishment
Inform students about the regulation
Letter to inform parents
Collection of money
Reprimand from teacher
Punishment for keeping long hair
Caning for leaving class without permission
Caning without being informed of the wrong committed

Mean Score
4.60
4.38
4.02
3.92
3.52
3.24
3.06
2.70
2.12

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Students' Awareness of Enforcement According to Gender


Overall, the female students tend to have a higher score for the three dimensions. Table
4 shows that the mean score for female students is higher than for the male students in
terms of awareness related to enforcement of discipline. Female students tend to possess
a higher level of awareness of their rights compared to the male students. In terms of
school safety, the mean score of the female students is higher than that of the males.
The mean score for the female students is also higher than for the males in terms of the
communication of results and regulations (Table 4).
Table 4
Mean Score ofStudents'Awareness of Rights According to Gender
Male (n=24)

Female (n=26)

Enforcement of discipline

3.58

3.61

School safety

3.88

4.08

Communication of results and


regulations

3.67

3.73

Students from the Science academic background possess a higher mean score than
students from the Arts background with respect to the enforcement of punishment
(Table 5). Regarding school safety, the mean score of the Science students is also higher
compared to the Arts. The Science students also recorded a higher mean score than the
Arts students in respect of awareness of the communication of rules and regulations by
the school.
Table 5
Mean Score ofStudents'Awareness of Rights According to Academic Background
Science
(n=25)

Arts
(n=25)

Enforcement of punishment

3.76

3.46

School safety

4.07

3.82

Communication of results and


regulations

3 .6 7

3 .7 3

Difference in Level of Awareness According to Gender


The results of the study revealed no significant difference between the levels of awareness
of the students according to gender (Table 6).

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Table 6
Differences in Level of Awareness According to Gender
Gender

Mean

SD

Male

24

3.71

11.76

Female

26

3.80

df

48

.308*

11.17

Gx.05)

The findings also showed that there are no significant differences between the level of
awareness of the students according to academic background (Table 7).
Table 7
Differences in Level of Awareness According to Academic Background
Academic background

Mean

SD

Science

25

3.86

10.58

Arts

25

3.61

df

48

136

12.31

(p<-05)

CONCLUSION
The overall findings showed that students possess an adequate level of awareness
concerning issues related to their rights as students. Nevertheless, further measures can
be taken to enhance the level of awareness through workshops and seminars. The benefits
of these measures would include a possible reduction in court cases involving students
(Gonzalez, 2002; Sigletary, 1996). The Safe School initiative implemented by the Ministry
of Education to improve awareness of safety in school is another important strategy
(Ministry of Education, 2002). Awareness of the various issues related to students' rights
can be developed from the primary level to further ensure that these rights are understood
at an early age. This would enable greater compliance with the rules and procedures set
by the authorities. The quality of the educational process would be strengthened when
both educators and students respect each other's rights, thus fostering closer rapport and
a more positive school environment.

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