‘Excellent conduct.’ Who cares?

‘Excellent conduct.’ Who cares?

The Education Ministry is bringing back the custom of giving students a grade for conduct that will go on their final-year transcripts and graduation certificates.

The measure is included in a draft bill that will be discussed by Parliament’s Educational Affairs Committee on Monday, following a public debate on the issue that basically found the measure redundant. At best it is considered an anachronism with conservative connotations, which is being restored after being abolished by the leftist-led SYRIZA government in 2017.

Under that law, pupils were still graded on their overall behavior, but this was only intended for use by the school and was not included in the pupil’s formal graduation records. Under the new law, the grade will be included in pupils’ report cards, graduation certificates and education transcripts.

Of the 204 comments posted by members of the public with regard to this specific article of the legislation on the website where the debate was carried out, only a handful had anything somewhat positive to say the measure. The rest condemned it in no uncertain terms: It was dismissed as punitive, as stigmatizing and marginalizing pupils, as painting a target on their backs, as anti-educational and incomprehensible, while others still saw it as antiquated.

It is impossible to argue in favor of the decision. This is not because pupils who systematically flout the rules should be allowed to go unpunished, but because grading conduct should not even be the last-ditch effort in any bid to improve the behavior of pupils. It’s a measure that harks back to darker times in education and one that has already been shown to make no positive contribution to schools’ task of turning out well-formed individuals.

The growing prevalence of bullying, the intimidation that exists between children, but also by children against their teachers (and occasionally even from adults against children), and the chaos that becomes more systematic and violent every year that passes are things that can most certainly not be cured by a measure that evaluates behavior as excellent, good or deplorable.

In fact, it cannot even begin to help contain these phenomena. When violence at school is so often the result of violence at home, disciplinary action is not the way to break the cycle.

If the notion of “excellent conduct” was, instead, mirrored in our modern society and in our behavior, we’d be living in a very different world right now, and so would our children.

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