Webcams an invasion of pupils’ privacy, says parents’ group

noor-azimah-sekolahPETALING JAYA: A parents’ group has questioned whether it is worth invading a student’s privacy by installing webcams in classrooms just so parents can ensure that their children are behaving well at school.

This follows a report by The New York Times last month which revealed that Yuzhou No. 1 High School in central China had installed webcams in its classrooms to crowdsource the task of catching misbehaving pupils red handed.

Speaking to FMT on whether or not such a practice should be implemented in some schools in Malaysia, Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairman Noor Azimah Rahim turned the tables on parents, by asking if they themselves would like it if their privacy was invaded in such a manner at the offices where they worked.

“Parents are at work as well. Would they like to have webcams aimed at them while they’re working and have their employers watching them all the time? I don’t think so,” she said.

“So this is a similar case and I see it as an intrusion. I’m sure students don’t want their parents to be watching them while they’re in class.”

According to The New York Times’ report, many of the students from Yuzhou No. 1 High School viewed live-streaming as an intrusion of their privacy. This in turn has prompted a broader debate in China about privacy, educational ethics and the risks of helicopter parenting.

Azimah pointed out that it was the teacher’s job to ensure that students behaved themselves and it was also the responsibility of principals and school administrators to ensure teachers carried out their duties.

“That’s why we have principals and administrators in schools, to ensure that the teachers play their roles properly and effectively. That’s why we pay them anyway.

“This (installing of webcams in classrooms), I think is a bit much,” she said, adding that not many schools would even be able to afford it anyway.

“We have CCTVs in some schools but they’re in the corridors and open areas, not in the classrooms. Also, only the principal has access to them.”

Azimah also disagreed that webcams in classrooms would be a good tool to deter teachers from turning abusive on their students.

“Teachers are professionals and we have to trust them to some extent. Installing webcams is not going to do much when it comes to catching possibly abusive teachers because if the school wants to protect them then it will find a way to do so.”