Impact of student misconduct on society | Sunday Observer

Impact of student misconduct on society

18 June, 2023

The word ‘discipline’ is a positive concept, although it is frequently associated with negative undertones. Many people think it is the role of both parents and teachers to discipline their children, although lately in Sri Lanka, the latter has been under tremendous pressure to discipline students both in the classroom and away.

How should teachers handle misbehaving students? What kind of punishment should be meted out? This was recently disputed in the aftermath of recordings and social media posts of government school pupils in Sri Lanka grossly misbehaving in public places.

Incident after incident was reported by the media during the past several weeks, indicating a clear spike in student misbehaviour and gross indiscipline. For example, unpleasant and dreadful occurrences such as assaulting teachers, gang fighting, vandalism, cheating at examinations, and many such confrontations were revealed by the media.

The most horrifying was the murder of a schoolteacher in Kalutara who was attacked by young students for advising them not to misbehave on the road. Not only was his life taken, but perhaps the future of the three youngsters involved may be ruined forever if they are convicted. None of these incidents can be mentioned as typical harmless youthful conduct society saw a decade ago. Almost all recent incidents were much ghastlier and frightening.

Therefore, it is time for every concerned individual, social activist, politician from every political party, general public, and every other stakeholder to consciously look at the emerging grave situation in the country concerning youth indiscipline and misconduct.

Youth, particularly student, misbehaviour in schools or in public, is a pervasive issue that can have far-reaching consequences on both individuals and society in Sri Lanka and in any other country as well, if not curtailed as a priority. Misbehaviour in educational settings encompasses a wide range of actions, including disruptive behaviour, academic dishonesty, substance abuse, and violence.

One of the principal effects of student misbehaviour is the disruption it causes within the educational system itself. Misbehaviour can lead to classroom disturbances, hinder the learning environment, and compromise the education of other students. Teachers may spend valuable teaching time addressing disciplinary issues, diverting attention from academic subjects. This disruption can undermine the quality of education and disrupt the overall effectiveness of the entire system.


Moreover, incessant misconduct can lead to teacher burnout and a decline in their morale, which can compromise the quality of teaching. Teachers may feel frustrated, stressed, and demoralised when dealing with unruly students, affecting their overall satisfaction and their ability to provide a nurturing learning environment. A few unruly students are able to disrupt the entire process.

Student misbehaviour can also have a detrimental impact on community cohesion, where interrelationships and positive mutual support can be harmed. Schools serve as an important miniature version of society, and misbehaviour within schools can reflect and spread larger societal issues. Instances of violence or discrimination in educational settings can foster an environment of fear, hostility, and mistrust among students.

The negative behaviour exhibited by students can influence their peers unless such unruly students are controlled at the first sign of such misconduct. The spread of negative social norms by young students, particularly those who are in their teens, can erode the moral fabric of a community, leading to a decline in social values, empathy, and respect. Ultimately, this can contribute to a breakdown in social relationships and a weakened sense of coexistence.

A strong message must be given to students in their early education that their misconduct can have a considerable impact on their future. Most of the recent incidents involved seemingly unlawful acts. If these misbehaving students engage in such unlawful acts and are sentenced by a court of law, even by way of a fine, their future employability, particularly overseas, can be marred forever, as such sentences will be recorded in police clearance certificates.

The impact of student misbehaviour extends far beyond the educational system and into broader social well-being. According to sociologists, misbehaviour can contribute to increased crime rates, as students who engage in misconduct may be more likely to exhibit criminal behaviour in adulthood. This poses a significant threat to public safety and adds to the strain on law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system.


The visible common view of subject-related intellectuals in the country is that the upbringing of children is one of their core attributes, and the parents are responsible for teaching them good social ethics.

On the other hand, the responsibility of teachers and the school system is important, although teachers are becoming more and more reluctant to engage unruly students due to retaliations from students and, in some cases, irrational parental interference.

The economic costs associated with education are substantial for the country. The vast minority of misbehaving and undisciplined students can waste a substantial amount of public funds by disrupting the classroom. Misconduct-related expenses that include interventions, disciplinary measures, and potential actions, though not calculated yet, could be sizeable for the struggling economy of the country. These costs burden educational institutions, diverting resources away from other essential areas such as curriculum development, teacher training, and student support services.

Addressing the problem of indiscipline in the education system is a pressing issue for everyone concerned. The matter requires a multi-faceted approach that involves collaboration among educational stakeholders, including students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and policymakers. The issue requires effective strategies focusing on preventive measures, reinforcement of positive behaviour, enhancing parental involvement, teacher training to manage specific situations, and new policy implementations.

Prevention is one of the most crucial factors in controlling student misbehaviour. As preventive measures, instead of going on with the traditional methods adopted for the past many decades, schools can establish new rules and expectations to match the present generation of youth. If such well-defined codes of conduct and the consequences of defying them can be effectively communicated to all stakeholders, a positive school climate can be created.

Similarly, peer support programs, as in many developed countries, should be established to foster a sense of belonging where people feel helped and connected. These programs promote positive relationships among students and provide a framework for addressing conflicts and challenges. Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for managing student behaviour. By focusing on recognising and rewarding positive behaviour, educators can encourage students to make better choices.

In order to strengthen positive behaviour, strategies such as acknowledgment and praise, rewards with non-financial incentives, and restorative practices for accountability must be initiated. Implementing practises such as peer mediation, conflict resolution, and reflective discussions can help students understand the consequences of their actions and develop empathy for others.

Preparing teachers with effective behaviour management strategies is vital to controlling student misbehaviour. This must be done at the beginning of teacher training. Well-defined training initiatives can provide Sri Lankan teachers with the necessary skills to address diverse student needs.

Classroom management techniques, conflict resolution and mediation skills, cultural sensibility, and inclusivity are some of the important areas that must be included in training.

Finally, strengthening the implementation of educational policies is the foremost responsibility of the authorities. They should develop and enforce new pragmatic policies that promote a disciplined and respectful learning environment; they must be in line with the mindset of modern students. The authorities must have clear and consistent disciplinary policies with clearly defined consequences for misbehaviour that are known and understood by all stakeholders.

On a priority basis, the authorities must also collaborate with schools, teachers, parents, and community organisations to ensure the effective implementation of behaviour management policies.

Regular monitoring and evaluation of policy outcomes can help identify areas for improvement. Ultimately, this will contribute to the overall development and progress of Sri Lankan society.