Sun, Jun 15, 2008 - Page 8 News List

How educators are like ostriches

By Chi Hui-Jung紀蕙容

Recently the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced a legal amendment that allows high school students to take pre-maternity leave, maternity leave, miscarriage leave and parental leave. The Garden of Hope foundation approves of this move, but also calls high schools to implement complementary measures so that the good intentions behind the amendment do not come to naught.

Many teachers and parents are concerned that this policy will encourage high school girls to become pregnant.

However, just as allowing students to take sick leave does not constitute encouragement for students to become sick, similarly, allowing them to take maternity leave does not constitute encouragement for students to become pregnant.

While the concerns of parents and teachers are understandable, statistics cannot be ignored.

According to the MOE, 153 high school students became pregnant in 2006. Of these, 94 were married, while 59 were unmarried.

But the official birth rate shows that almost 5,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 gave birth during the same period. The new amendment is merely a response to this reality.

Do adults not have an obligation to provide these teenagers with basic education rights? While we do not wish to encourage sexual behavior in underage children, when it does happen, should adults not ask themselves how these teenagers go in this situation?

It is unfair to shun these teens, consider their acts to be sinful, reprimand them, or take away their right to education.

There are some teachers who believe that pregnant students in the classroom would serve as bad examples for their classmates.

There are parental organizations that insist pregnant teens should take leave from school so that their pregnancies won’t be made known to the rest of the school.

However, while it can be good to keep the pregnancy private, the decision to do so should not stem from shame, but from the desire to protect student privacy.

In both cases, the outcome is the same, but the attitude toward the issue makes all the difference.

A pregnant teen has the right to decide whether she wants to let others know about her pregnancy and whom she wishes to disclose it to.

The right attitude when faced with a pregnant teenager attending school is to recognize her situation and help her deal with it, without affecting others in the process.

Teachers should put themselves in the position of students and keep their best interests in mind, rather than attempting to cover up pregnancy as something shameful.

Protecting the privacy of students is the responsibility of the school, but privacy rights should not be used as an excuse for neglect. The disparity between the MOE statistics and the official birth rate makes the ostrich-like mentality of educational authorities obvious.

An absence of pregnancy leave does not create an absence of pregnant teens.

That we support setting up a system to protect the rights of pregnant girls doesn’t mean we encourage or tacitly approve of sexual activity among high school students. A matter of greater concern is whether pregnant teens are left abandoned and helpless.

The Garden of Hope Foundation has always advocated confronting the problems of teen pregnancy.

The school environment has to be friendly and allowing pregnant girls to take maternity leave is one step closer to this goal.

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