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Is the Ban on Cell Phones  in Schools Effective?
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Is the Ban on Cell Phones in Schools Effective?

The ban on the use of cell phones by school children has been in place for some time now and Minister of Education Ali Asghar Fani has made it clear that it will not be revoked anytime soon and “the technophile generation of today has to endure school hours without their beloved smart phones and tablets.”
But the moot question is whether the ban on cell phones is the right decision or should these devices be allowed in schools? A deputy to the minister of education acknowledged that the use of cell phones by students in schools has both pros and cons. The official quoted by Jame-Jam newspaper said the current ban on cell phones “is not destined to last forever and could be subject to change.”
By looking at the issue realistically, we can say that attaching a punitive status to a gadget that kids are growing up with and can barely imagine life without it, may not be a positive step. This may make children to associate school with boredom and contribute to the stereotype image that “school is no fun place.” The widespread hidden use of cell phones in the classroom is also no secret with proof of ‘selfies’ and recorded footages of students’ pranks posted on social media from time to time.
There are also concerns by parents who insist their children should at least have a simple mobile phone to keep in touch in case of emergencies.

 Not Justifiable
Akram Jaffari, a teacher at a girls’ high school in Tehran has strong views on cell-phone use in the classroom. She told the Persian Iran newspaper that using cell phones in the class room is in no way justifiable. ‘’This only leads to students’ poor academic performance as many times it is seen that while the teacher is introducing a new subject and a child is absorbed in his or her cell phone, it can also distract other students as well,’’ she says. Moreover, the graphic content which is circulated among students from time to time is very harmful. Jaffari says she is surprised when for instance a student’s cell phone is seized to be given to parents, it makes some parents angry.  Parents should cooperate with school officials in this regard.
Milad Dehghani, a young teacher who has taught in remote areas as well as in south Tehran districts told Financial Tribune that for some of his students “cell phones are means of sustenance since they have to work part-time jobs outside of school.” Some of the students in remote areas also need cell phones to arrange with each other on how to catch a ride to school.
‘’The truth is that bans seldom yield results and when it comes to cell phones I think creating a proper culture regarding their use is far better than just ‘criminalizing’ it,’’ he says.
 Dehghani himself has made educational use of smartphones in his classrooms by letting the students search the web during their English lessons. He suggests that the department of education create educational apps and games so the children will be entertained in an academic way “which can also supplement their otherwise not too interesting textbooks.”

 Distracters
The total ban is of course popular with top officials at the education department. Mehdi Navid Adham, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Education makes it clear that the ministry has no short-term or even long-term plans to reconsider the ban. ‘’Providing an environment free of diversions is among the duties of the ministry, and hence the ban on any device or gadget that will disrupt this goal,’’ he says. He also refers to similar bans in other countries to support his view.
‘’In Asian countries like Japan and India, the ban has mostly to do with morally objectionable content and in western countries like the US, France and Australia, the ban is intended to prevent disruption in learning,”  Navid Adham said. He also alluded to a study conducted by the Michigan University which showed that mobile phones are big distracters in the learning process.    
The Police Department, on its website also expresses similar concerns about the use of these devices in schools and recommends software to track down cheating in exams that goes on with the help of mobile phones.    
 The punishment for using cell phones in schools is mostly left to disciplinary committees but in extreme cases it can entail suspension from school for up to 3 days.  But the punitive measures have barely been successful in deterring students. Peer pressure perforce pushes kids to persuade their parents to let them keep their mobile devices; and then smuggle them to their classrooms.  
The proposal to introduce special ‘student cell phones’ which was made by the former education minister and endorsed by the current minister stands a slim chance considering the increasing popularity of smart phones among school children and a shortage of funds in the ministry itself.
 
 Responsible Use    
So if the no-tolerance policies on cell phones in schools have been anything but successful, what can be done? The most viable answer would be to turn the problem into an opportunity by encouraging and ultimately instilling responsible use of cell phones by students. Alongside their distractive features, smart phones are also being widely used for educational apps. In many schools around the world the de facto ban on cell phones has been replaced by teachers allowing their controlled use for better results. In the U.S for instance, 25% of schools allow cell phones at schools and some others have relaxed prohibition to facilitate digital learning.
With mobile apps and the Internet at their fingertips, teachers and students are now using phones as clickers to answer questions, providing feedback on student progress, and also to document labs, collaborate on group projects and capture teachers’ notes. The government can even help students in poorer neighborhoods to own devices so they will not lag behind. This may be a more promising strategy in the long-term than pursuing a questionable policy of outright ban and restriction. 

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