Campus cell phone ban should only apply to students: teachers group

The China Post news staff

The China Post news staff–A new regulation to ban cell phone use for school staff and visitors on campus had drawn mixed responses from parents and teachers.

While parent groups support the new rule by the Ministry of Education (MOE) as an effective prevention of teacher distraction in class, the National Teachers’ Association (NTA) denounced it as discriminatory and disproportionate.

The MOE announced the regulations in September to require not only students but also school staff of senior high school or below and visitors to turn off their cell phones once they enter campus and before the after school period. During that time, cell phone use should be allowed only in necessary or emergency situations, according to the regulation.

The MOE’s environmental task force pointed out that it consulted the Environmental Protection Administration, the National Health Bureau, the National Communications Commission, local government officials, experts, parent groups as well as the NTA in setting out the guidelines. The MOE stressed that the rules were made not to bar people from bringing cell phones to campus but to maintain order and to preserve students’ right to education as well as the health of school staff and students.

In statement released yesterday, the NTA criticized the restriction of teachers’ cellphone use outside class hours as disproportionate. The ban is harsh compared to practices for employees in other businesses, the NTA said.

The NTA also dismissed rationale by some parents that targets only teachers’, but not schoolmasters’ or other administrative staffs’, use of cell phones to keep track of stock prices during office but non-class hours as discriminatory.

NTA Secretary-General Wu Chung-tai (吳忠泰) pointed out that cell phones are useful tools for parent-teacher interaction and teaching. Parents often text or call teachers at pretty much any time while he used to send group text messages to parents in his class to communicate with them. Wu, however, support the ban of cell phone use for students, saying that it helps students to concentrate. He also said the restriction can correct the practice of students using cell phone cameras to record cases of school bullying and other potentially embarrassing events and report them to the mass media, without explaining why such practice should be considered wrong or unwelcomed.