Time and time again, we receive information about students who out of ignorance or who may want to show off begin to have issues with their teachers within the university environment. Sure, the teachers too have their own way of telling “who’s the boss”. In most cases, these students continue to fail one course over and over again. Some even had extra year(s) in school. This is a very challenging situation to the academic environment. The researcher is however, of the view that if educators view the students same way those in the business environment view their customers, educators will be more careful in handling these cases. Therefore, this paper on “the student as a customer” attempt to pry into the effects of degrading students’ test scores as a punishment for misbehaviour and how educators can handle all such cases, especially when they view the erring student “as a customer” and would want to do everything to help them succeed academically.
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This paper is dedicated to Dr. F. C. Akpotohwo, of the Department of Vocational and Technology education, Niger Delta University whose personality has greatly influenced this paper.
I thank God Almighty for the Grace of life, health and intellect.
I thank Dr. F. C. Akpotohwo for remotely/indirectly influencing this idea.
I thank Mr. Austin Abu from whom a chunk of knowledge was drawn.
The concept – the customer is always right – is one borne out of the impression to put the customer in a dignified situation with just one intent – to elicit sales/patronage from the customer at all cost. Recall similar instances like “the queen can do no wrong”, “primus inter pere” meaning “the first among equals”; these concepts are used to place a figure in a position of respect and superiority in a society. Therefore, referring to the customer as always being right does not necessarily mean that the customer can do no wrong as most businessmen/women had often dismissed it. What it means is that organizations who really want to succeed use these words for employees to make them know that no matter the situation, the customer cannot be reprimanded nor be attacked. Even in their mistakes, they still have to be treated like eggs, this is to create a nice experience during the interfacing period so as to create opportunity for a continuous/repeat patronage. All these indicate that business owners understand the place of customers in their endeavour to succeed. They understand that business growth is impossible without adequate patronage.
Accordingly, within the university community, the friendship between educators and students can be improved upon whence educators start seeing students as customers. Seeing the students as customers enable educators to do all they can to put the students in the right path. Nonetheless, the position maintained here does not exclude punishment for erring students. In effect, punishment is a major part of an expression of love and dignity for the student unlike the customer that should not be cautioned. However, educators are extremely careful not to personalize punishment nor to infuse anger in the punishment they give.
The major problem this paper sought to address is built around educators who fail students who may have personal issues with such students. In my own disposition, a student’s score should remain his/her score irrespective of prevailing circumstances. Professional educators deal with all such issues outside the grading environment. This is to ensure that ceteris paribus, the student’s examination performance reflects his/her abilities. This is also to ensure that the results from such examination scores does not distort the findings of researchers who would later need such result sheet for research purposes.
Multivariate issues had emanated between educators and students that tend to make such educators entirely exasperated. In such instances, calmness and thoughtfulness is required to get through such anger without necessarily harming the student who may be ignorant of what he/she had doing and the possible attendant consequences. Granted, the student was supposed to be awarded in character and learning, therefore, any punishment on the student’s moral misbehavior is absolutely justified. Nonetheless, bringing the punishment into his scoreline is now the issue this paper is concerned about. The author is of the view that there can be other channels through which such students can be dealt with without necessarily reducing his/her scores. Seeing the student as a customer erodes any intended action to influence his/her grades.
Educators should note however, that reducing a student’s test scores in order for him to fail as a way of teaching him a lesson have a far reaching effects on the student. Like the example in the preceding paragraphs, consider the case of someone who comes to you to do business, sure, you do not want to do anything that would make the customer regret for patronizing your office to do business. Accordingly, despite their attitude, we put all mechanism in place to repair any challenging situation that may arise as a result of transacting. There is also another instance of a parent whose son is under my tutelage. As a smoker, cultist and a stubborn son, the parent wanted to remove themselves from sponsoring his education. My advice was clear – that despite the “temporary challenges”, we would not do anything that would harm the boy in the long run; the challenge is a temporary one, therefore, a temporary discipline should be administered. I opined that lets put temporary punishment in place, maybe reduce his monthly allowance of N30,000 to N10,000, surely, he will feel the heat and consequently call himself to order. At the end, the parent seemed to be satisfied with my recommendations, and the boy continued his education as a 200 level Nigerian university student. Accordingly, reducing test scores which may result in intended failure is seen here as a measure with a long term effect, as such, should be discouraged in the punishment of erring students.
The plea to distance any form of punishment from the student’s scoreline was intended with a view to the negative perception such degrading may have on the future performance of the child. His total final performance may not reflect his personality, a yardstick against which society will judge his capacity. While the author is in full support of punishment on erring students, educators on the other hand must learn to be decent and highly professional in the discharge of their duties as teachers.
What can be Done?
Based on the concerns raised in this paper, the following are hereby suggested.
- The first approach to erring students should be counsel. I have learnt a lot from one of my foremost lecturers, Dr. F. C. Akpotohwo. In instances where I thought I would surely be dealt with behind the scene, he comes to the class and counsel everybody. Meanwhile I have thought “I am a dead man already”. So you see? It is possible to straighten the thought process of erring students by counseling. Most of them will even apologize at the end. At their level, most of them want to be assertive. They want to be heard. They want to be pompous, and so on. Truly, they are filled with ideas and enthusiasm and needed to be given the room to be heard and express themselves. As a business educator and a business practitioner, I have numerous WhatsApp groups where I gather my congregation of customers. I noticed that some customers are very assertive and antagonistic. Initially, what I was doing was removing all such persons from the group. But later, I thought to myself, “what if all the customers begin to behave in like manner, will I remove all of them?” Not at all. So, later, I learnt tolerance. Till date, I never write anybody off. I now operate with everyone “at their own level”. The one that is a thief, I interact with him “at his level”. For the prostitute, I interact with her “at her level”. For the one society tagged a witch, I interact with her “at her level” – so, as an educator, I have to become a different person to various individuals. This perception I have maintained with the understanding that we are friends even outside the school environment and my professional attitude had helped me immensely. Within the business environment, what matters most are sales. What then is your business if the person is a prostitute, thief, or witch? Provided each party stayed glued to the policies of the business, there will be no need to write anyone off. So, as educators, the intent to degrade a student due to a non challant attitude exhibited is highly questionable.
- Within the research community, researchers believe that teacher-student relationship have a significant effect on students’ performance in the subject so taught by the teacher. This is to say that the problem may not even end there with just degrading the student’s scores. It may continue in other semesters as the student, already knowing that the teacher bear him in mind, may begin to avoid the teacher, avoid the class, or refuse to participate in class activities so as not to be noticed. So, the best first approach is to call the student to order as noted in 1 above. This is to avoid further decay of the matter.
- In the event of serious breach, there may be need for arrest, or maybe to report the case to relevant quarters within the ranks of the administrative heads like the Students’ Disciplinary Committee. These constituted authorities will investigate the matter and give relevant sanctions – even while the students’ scores are still intact.
- Educators should endeavor to prioritize their emotional balance. This emotional balance is very important in maintaining the sagacity needed to see things through when anger sets in. Without the emotional balance, rash decisions can be hurriedly taken.
The view maintained in this paper should not in any way be seen as a way of discouraging punishment from erring students. What is intended here is the need to apply punishment outside the grading system. This is because degrading students’ scores have a far reaching effect on the students, the educators, the academic institution and the research community at large.