Joachim Gay Chao Hui, husband of the infamous Rachelle Ann Beguai is currently being investigated by the Ministry of Education (MOE) for making “insensitive” comments against Singaporeans through his wife’s Facebook account. MOE has said through a spokesman that it “takes a serious view of Gay’s reported actions and statements on the internet”. They are currently investigating the case and will take appropriate disciplinary action against him.
MOE’s spokesman further stated that MOE expects its teachers to conduct themselves in a manner that upholds the high standing of the profession, both in a personal and professional capacity” and that the same expectations apply to the use of online platforms. I applaud the speed at which MOE has responded to the issue and if at the end of the investigations, MOE concludes that Gay had indeed made those comments and that the comments did contravene his terms of employment, they should have recourse to take whatever disciplinary actions necessary in accordance with their employment guidelines and his employment contract.
However, I would like to draw attention to another incident whereby teachers have made a similar faux pas.
Recently, some teachers came under fire for making indiscreet comments and making fun of a student on Facebook.
While the comments were seemingly innocuous, parents who have seen the comments have remarked that “it was obvious who the teachers were talking about”. While the teachers were ostensibly having a chat about work between colleagues,they should have been mindful of the fact that the chat was on a relatively public forum and that all of their “friends” would have been able to view the contents of that chat.
Some of the teachers were friends with their students and these students would in turn have known who they were discussing (see HERE). Parents who have been notified of the contents of the “chat” have raised concerns that this could lead to bullying.
Whether we like it or not, bullying does occur in schools. It may not be possible to eradicate its presence completely but measures can certainly be taken to alleviate it. The hazards of “chats” such as these would arguably hamper the school’s efforts to clamp down on bullying. One parent involved in the saga has remarked: “teachers are supposed to be inculcating values in our children, and here they are showing themselves to be doing the exact opposite.”
If Gay is to be investigated by MOE, it would only be fair if these teachers also face the same investigation. After all, both incidents involve teachers allegedly engaging in inappropriate discussions on Facebook. In fact, I would argue that what these teachers have done has far more serious repercussions than what Gay has allegedly done.
The teachers were talking about a specific individual who was easily identifiable while Gay was making disparaging remarks at Singaporeans in general. While Gay insulted our pride collectively, the teachers have caused immense heartache to the student they were talking about . They would also have caused undue stress on his parents.
When contacted, the boy’s father,who was trained as a psychologist and is actively involved in the school as a parent volunteer, said that he was “shocked” and “upset”by the incident.
These teachers could also have unwittingly incited other pupils into bullying this pupil! After all, if the teachers do not respect him, why should the other students?
In fact, the principal of South View Primary School, Jenny Yeo, noted that teachers needed to be careful when using social media, especially since students looked to them as role models.
So while I fully understand why Singaporeans are angry with Gay, I would urge people to also look at the bigger picture and be fair. If the issue is with teachers setting good examples to students, then these teachers should face the same consequences as Gay.
If the issue is with causing harm to Singaporeans, then these teachers have caused more harm because they have actually identified an individual to be picked on. Gay on the other hand, made derogatory statements against a mass of Singaporeans and no individual can be singled out and picked on as a result of his remarks.
In comparing these two cases, I would urge MOE to be consistent in meting out punishment and please, not a trial by media.
Picture credit: linkway88