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School CP - September 2006

Corpun file 18306

The New Paper, Singapore, 5 September 2006

Circles help shape Ping Yi students

In the last of a three-part series on schools with good disciplinary programmes, The New Paper looks at Ping Yi Secondary

By Liew Hanqing

AT Ping Yi Secondary School, the circle is an important shape.
Students and teachers form one when they meet for group discussions.

It is part of a school-wide initiative, known as restorative practices, at the School.

The idea of sitting around in a circle is used in class conferences, often to resolve conflicts at the class level.
A 'talking stick' is passed around, and whoever is passed the stick is given a chance to speak up.

Everyone in the circle gets a chance to speak, including the teacher facilitating the conference.

The school first introduced the practice last year, after the guidance branch of the Ministry of Education (MOE) introduced it in four pilot schools.

The three other pilot schools are: Woodlands Ring Secondary, Jun Yuan Secondary, and St Andrew's Secondary.

Said Hafiz A'alely Mohd Zahid, a Secondary 1 student: 'In the circle, we get to share our experiences with each other.

'I had a friend whom I didn't like much in the beginning because I thought he was quite scary.

'But after talking to him, I found out he was actually a nice boy. We're good friends now.'


Another facet of restorative practices is helping students reflect on their wrongdoings.

Errant students are put through a thinking process after they have committed an offence. They are given a self-reflection form to fill up - they must write about their offence and why they did it.

At the end of the questionnaire, they must make a commitment to the school not to repeat the offence, or face a penalty they themselves propose.

Said principal Julia Woo: 'Usually, the commitment should be tied to the student's wrongdoing. 'For example, if the student is caught for littering, then he can right the wrong by volunteering to pick up litter in school.'

She added, however, that some students find it hard to say what they should do to make amends.

In such cases, the school proposes corrective measures.


But restorative practices do not mean the end of measures such as caning.

The school feels such punishments are still necessary, especially for recalcitrant students who commit offences such as theft and fighting.

They will still be put through a thinking process to reflect on their wrongdoings.

Said discipline master Martin Chan: 'We aren't taking away all punitive measures - we still have those in place.

'We view restorative practices more as an additional measure that will help us to manage misbehaviour.'

Mrs Woo said that the focus of these practices is to repair the damage done to relationships as a result of students' offences. For example, the victim of an offence such as theft is brought face-to-face with the offender.

Said Mrs Woo: 'We want to help the child realise the damage he has done as a result of his actions, take responsibility for them and repair the damage.'

In the past, offenders were simply punished according to the rules. Now, they are disciplined, then made to reflect in writing. Teachers then go through the reflections with them.

Copyright 2005 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.

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