Teachers oppose classroom cameras

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Installing cameras in classrooms may inspire teachers to quit en masse, teachers and education officials in Ho Chi Minh City have warned.


Taking a cue from several private kindergartens, the city's Department of Education and Training plans to install experimental cameras at several schools so that parents can watch their children from home.


Nguyen Thi Mai Lien, the principal of Hoa Sen private kindergarten in Go Vap District said cameras will only put undue pressure on school teachers.


"They will feel they are not respected, not trusted and have to be supervised by the lifeless equipment," VietNamNet quoted Lien as saying Thursday.


"Good teachers would quit. Those who are not good will also quit because their salary is not much and they have to suffer all kinds of pressure," she said.


Many teachers at Anh Cau Vong kindergarten quit after spending a few days as interns.


They said they received at least 15 phone calls a day from parents who asked about what they saw on the cameras, according to a recent report by Tuoi Tre.


One mother called to ask "Where my kid is sleeping?" The child was lying at the end of the room, outside the frame.


Another mother called to enquire why her child was standing and facing a wall -- he was drawing, the teachers said.


Lien said the camera solution is "anti-education" and ultimately betrays "the helplessness of education authorities in implementing effective management."


If this latest measure comes as a response to the recent case of a kindergarten teacher that locked a child in an elevator as a punishment, "[the city] is making a hasty move," the principal said.


Nguyen Thi Phuong Mai, a kindergarten teacher in District 10, said the cameras would make her feel supervised all day.


"Teachers need to put their responsibility to the children on top. They can hardly do their job right if they just work when supervised," Mai said.


Her school doesn't use cameras but school leaders go around to check on how the teachers are working, she said. "Cameras won't be necessary."


Huyen, a mother, has a child attending Hai Yen Private Kindergarten which recently installed cameras.


Ultimately, she said, the cameras don't provide any real assurances.


"When the teacher is angry, she can take the children to hidden corners like the stairs or the corridor or the toilet to torture them," Huyen said. "Then, the camera is useless."


She added that the internet connection from the school encountered problems or the school forgot to turn it on sometimes.


Several schools installed the camera but soon stopped using them, the mother said.


It would cost a kindergarten around VND100 million (US$5,100) for a system with six cameras at six classrooms, not counting maintenance cost.


Lien said to install cameras at private schools means the students have to pay extra.


Yet many parents support the teacher surveillance movement.


Nguyen Thi Huyen, whose 3-year-old son attemds a private kindergarten with cameras, said "I can see how my son plays and sleeps. It helps when I miss him too much. And the important thing is I can know that the teachers won't dare treat my son badly."


Nguyen Thi Binh, principal at Tre Tho kindergarten, said the school has won more trust from parents since they put in cameras.


Binh said the mother of one of her students works in Singapore and the cameras allow her to watch her child play every day.


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