The effect of truancy on future generations
by Dr. Anbalagan Krishnan and Selvaraj Grapragasem
Every parent has high expectations that their children will excel in school. They would like to see their children doing well not only in academic, but also co-curricular, activities. Teachers too, have a great responsibility to impart knowledge to their students and mould them into good citizens who will contribute to the development of our nation.
Parents and teachers face many obstacles and challenges in fulfilling their desire and making sure the children excel in school. One of the main hindrances in government schools is truancy. Truancy is defined as unexcused or unapproved absence from school, usually without the parents’ or teachers’ knowledge.
Truancy has been discussed by various parties such as school authorities, parents and government agencies for some time. It has the highest percentage of occurrences compared to other discipline problems in schools.
If students play truant and it becomes habitual, it will have negative consequences on themselves, their families and schools. Furthermore, the act of truancy emboldens students to be irresponsible and not keep up with education progress (Professional Circular, Ministry of Education Malaysia, 1995).
Truancy has been linked to serious delinquent activities in youth related to substance abuse, gang activity and involvement in criminal activities such as burglary, auto theft and vandalism (Baker, Sigmon & Nugent, 2001) and could also have negative consequences on behaviour in adults.
Truancy has become a significant problem in other parts of the world as well, especially in the United Kingdom and the United States. The Guardian (June 14, 2012) reported that truants miss 3.7 million school days each term in primary and secondary school in England. The Washington Post (November 08, 2012) reported that in 2011, more than 40 percent of the students in high school missed at least a month of school in Washington D.C.
Therefore, truancy is not only an issue for Malaysia but can be regarded as a global issue. Prevention measures have to be planned carefully before it poses a threat to our community and the development to our country.
Truancy will affect the teaching and learning process in schools and jeopardise the aspiration of the Philosophy of National Education, 1996, which aims to ‘produce individuals who are intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically balanced and harmonious, based on a firm belief in and devotion to God.”
Truancy has been discussed since back in the 1920s. Andriola, in his paper entitled ‘A Comparative Study of Non-Truant and Truant Children’ (1955), reviewed a few researchers’ perceptions of truancy. Clark said that factors such as intelligence, school retardation and heredity have vital influence in truancy.
Clinard, Arthur Johnson & Wallin, meanwhile, claimed that negative relationships between teachers and students contribute to truancy. Clinard also wrote that ineffective teaching can affect students’ concentration and interest in studying and can result in them playing truant.
Malaysian Deputy Education Minister Dr. Mohd Fuad Zarkashi has expressed his concern about truancy in the country, saying that truancy occurs in school because of factors like inadequate infrastructure, poverty and lack of interest in studies (News Straits Times, March 30, 2012).
A survey by the Consumer Association of Penang (CAP) conducted through Zakiayah Jamaluddin of University Malaya has shown that cyber cafes contribute to social problems amongst youth. Out of 230 respondents, 212 or 92.1 percent admitted to playing truant and going to cyber cafes. About 73 percent mentioned that spending time in cyber cafes is better than attending school (CAP Online bulletin, Sepetember 14, 2009).
The Borneo Post (January 13, 2011) reported that the police, Kuching South City Council enforcement officers and teachers raided a cyber cafe in Kuching and found 17 secondary school students, including girls aged between 14 and 17, engrossed in online computer games. The report shows that truancy involves not only male but also female students.
Nik Ruzyanei, et.al. (2009), in his research on psychosocial factors influencing truancy, mentioned that truancy is a behaviour that is affected by multiple intrinsic and extrinsic factors. His study also revealed that a high proportion of truant students come from families with divorced parents. Moreover, these students have low education goals and dislike school.
Bhatty (2008), in her study, suggested that truancy should not be seen as a deviant behaviour but rather an act of dissatisfaction that should be addressed amicably by improving teacher-student relationships, school environments and curriculum relevance. She also suggested that home education can be an alternative solution for the truancy problem.
Darmody, Smyth, & McCoy.S (2008), in their study on truancy in Irish secondary schools, concluded that significantly more male students in Ireland were playing truant than female students in their last year at school. In addition, students from lower class backgrounds (the unskilled manual labour group) are more prone to play truant compared to those from higher class backgrounds (professionals and farmers).
The Sun Daily (January 17, 2012) quoted Malaysian Deputy Minister of Education Datuk Dr. Wee Ka Siong as saying that a detailed study on truancy in schools will be carried out by his ministry through the Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation and University Malaya.
Meanwhile, an article in The Mail Online (March 2, 2013) stated that parents in the United Kingdom who refuse to take responsibility for improving the behaviour and attendance of their children in schools will have to pay a fine of £100 and attend compulsory parental classes. The writer felt it was a good move by the authorities and should be implemented in Malaysia too.
Brideland, Dilulio & Morison (2006) agreed that there is no simple solution to the dropout crisis but if support can be provided within the academic environment and at home, it could improve the students’ chances of attending school.
Dr. Anbalagan Krishnan is the Head of the Accounting Department and Senior Lecturer at Curtin Sarawak’s School of Business. His professional and teaching experience include conducting industrial training programmes and teaching accounting and managerial accounting units for university degree programmes. His research interests are in managerial accounting and control, performance measurement and management systems, ethical issues related to non-accounting and accounting issues, accounting information systems, corporate governance, and accounting education. Dr. Anbalagan can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Selvaraj Grapragasem is the Deputy Head of the Department of Educational Studies and a lecturer at the Institute of Teacher Education, Sarawak Campus (IPGKS) in Miri. Prior to becoming a lecturer in 2002, he was a primary and secondary school teacher for more than 15 years. His teaching experience includes teaching counselling and guidance, psychology and classroom management and discipline subjects. He is a registered counsellor and a lifetime member of the Malaysian Counselling Association (PERKAMA). Selvaraj can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.