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Should our children be taught compulsory manners in school ?

January 24, 2011


I’ve just been interviewed on LBC London Radio  about Chinese schoolchildren sitting mandatory manners classes in an attempt to smooth some of the rougher edges off modern Chinese society and whether we should introduce the idea over here in the UK.

Personally I think social skills help children build and maintain positive relationships with other children, family members, teachers and other adults but whether they should be compulsory in schools always sounds a bit heavy handed.

In my experience as a Deputy Head and Class Teacher for 22 years teachers are constantly gently reminding children to say “please” and “thank you” and reminding them to hold their knife and fork properly, not to run into people in corridoors and hold the door open for others.

It’s about parents and teachers working together and teaching children respect, good manners and curtesy for others.

What do YOU think?

Here’s the article from today’s Daily Telegraph.

From primary school onwards, Chinese children will now receive lessons in the art of queuing, good table manners, how to respect their elders and betters and the correct way to write letters, emails and even send SMS messages.

Older children will be tutored in the arts of introducing oneself to strangers, dealing politely with members of the opposite sex, making public speeches and the rudiments of dealing with foreigners and (to Chinese eyes, at least) their strange ways.

“The goal is to let students know that China is a country with a long history of civilisation, rituals and cultures,” said the guidelines which were published on the ministry’s website.

Behind the lessons lie Chinese government fears that modern China, having outgrown the guiding ideologies of both Confucianism and Communism, has become an increasingly materialistic and empty society.

China’s government frequently tries to improve the situation by launching patriotic campaigns against China’s earthier habits, such as spitting, smoking in public lavatories, littering and queue-jumping, but they are mostly ignored.

“The campaign is very necessary for our society now,” said Xin Tao, vice director of China’s the National Assessment of Education Quality and a professor of Beijing Normal University told the state-run Global Times.

“It’s true that many Chinese people aren’t well-mannered.” However poor manners might be a relative thing. “Without doubt, Chinese children are, by some distance, better mannered and more attentive than their English counterparts,” said an English teacher who has taught in both Chinese and English schools, “the problem comes when they leave and enter wider society. They have to fight to get on.”

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Sue Atkins is a Parenting Expert who offers practical guidance for bringing up happy, confident, well behaved children. She is also the author of “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” one in the  famous black and yellow series published worldwide and the highly acclaimed Parenting Made Easy CDs. She regularly appears on BBC Breakfast and The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 and her parenting articles are published all over the world.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2011 8:50 pm

    When I first read this – I was tempted to say yes. However, I’m not sure compulsory lesssons in manners would really work in our culture. As much as some people say that manners are not as good as they were, I’m sure every generation says that. It is not always easy to clarify what constitutes good manners. I would offer my seat up to an elderly person (regardless of whether they needed it) on a bus or train because I was brought up that way. I don’t however think because someone else doesn’t that they are necessarily showing bad manners. I’m also doubtful how effective lessons will be that tell people not to spit, jump queues etc, because once you are out of the confines of school, some learnt behaviour will stick, but as we all know lots will just disappear. I’m sure I was told not to barge, but I’m sorry when I regularly caught the tube in London – I barged people every morning to get on the packed trains. Bad manners? Yes. That however was my and many other people’s reality. No I don’t believe compulsory lessons would have sufficient long term effect to be worthwhile.

    • January 27, 2011 10:11 am

      I think schools teach manners all the time and children learn from observing but I don’t know about yours but mine needed reminding along the way !! 🙂

  2. sammy wright permalink
    January 29, 2011 2:12 pm

    I have to say i think manners are something that should be taught at home. And to be fair there are certain times when you have to stick up for yourself. I dont want my daughter to grow up being brainwashed at school that you must be polite all of the time. I teach her to use please and thatnk you, take turns, dont be cheeky ect ect but always stick up for yourself! If she grows up thinking she must always be nice and polite to people even if they are rude to you… there are times as a child and an adult, such as the workplace you have to stand up for yourself.

    • January 29, 2011 3:09 pm

      Oh yes being assertive is important but I don’t think the government were looking at it from that perspective. Just politeness, taking turns and showing respect 🙂 How old is your daughter ?

      • sammy wright permalink
        February 5, 2011 7:58 pm

        i have a 6 yr old and a 3 yr old, 2 very different girls, the eldest is sensitive and kind and needs to be taught to stick up for herself a bit more and the youngest is miss indepenant who needs her temper kept in check sometimes! 🙂

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