Teachers should avoid “inappropriate communication” with students through social media such as Facebook, according to their revised code of ethics.

It formalises what the majority of teachers already put into practice

They should keep a professional distance from students and should not take advantage of their profession to do business by, for example, giving private lessons to child-ren in their class.

These are among the new guidelines outlined in the revised Teachers’ Code of Ethics and Practice that was launched yesterday by Education Minister Dolores Cristina.

She pointed out that the code provided guidelines that were not set in stone, so situations had to be viewed on a case-by-case basis.

For example, while she would not tolerate a situation where teachers made a business out of their students in their own classes by promoting their private lessons, there could be situations where parents insisted their children went to private lessons with the same teacher they had at school.

She said the code formalised what the majority of teachers already put into practice.

This was the second revision of the code that was made to keep it up to date with new trends, such as the dawn of social media.

The revision was the result of the collaboration between the ministry, the Malta Union of Teachers and the Council for the Teaching Profession in Malta.

Council president Adrian Camilleri said the code was based on six key principles: maintain trust in the profession; maintain a professional relationship with students; respect the uniqueness and diversity of students; collaborate with colleagues, parents, guardians and carers; act with honesty and integrity; and keep professional knowledge up to date.

Dr Camilleri said that if a teacher breached the code the council had the power to recommend to the minister what action to take. Action could include reprimand and censure.

Ms Cristina added that the council was working on drafting, for the first time, a code of ethics for learning support assistants and kindergarten assistants.

She said she was in discussion with the MUT to explore ways of setting up structures to make schools safer and avoid instances where parents assaulted teachers, as had happened recently.

However, she said, such incidents were very rare and one had to go about this sensitively. Schools could not be made inaccessible to parents.

The revised guidelines can be viewed on the website of the Education Ministry, www.education.gov.mt.

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