Should surveillance cameras be put in classrooms?

Just a week ago, I taught in a school for a short period. Little did I know that in every classroom I was in, there was a camera. What? When I realised that, I reflected on my teaching and felt that although I had nothing to hide (I was not checking WhatsApp messages or taking a phone call), I still felt that my privacy had been invaded. It is as if a sort of ‘Big Brother’ was watching me all the time – not a comfortable feeling.

This controversial debate has been raging on for some time now in different parts of the world. Some people who support it say that it really helps to know what is going on with your child and teacher in the classroom. You are assured that if anything goes wrong, you will be able to know exactly what transpired and who to take responsibility. Also, if something is happening and the security personnel are watching the camera, they can hopefully stop it before it escalates into a bigger problem.

The question is, what if the camera footage falls into the wrong hands and the person who is watching the children has hidden motives and is not the one authorised to watch them? And another one is, what happens to all that footage?

Other good points are that for unbelieving parents, evidence of what happened in the classroom, including how the teaching actually happened and their children’s participation in the learning or any misconduct, can be sorted out easily as the camera does not lie. It displays proof that good lessons actually happen and students can also do lots of things that indicate learning is occurring.  Grades on reports are great, but pictures and videos say much more and parents and guardians appreciate to see these as proof of progress. In fact, a good number of schools insist on 10 photos a day documenting each child’s progress.

That being said, being on camera is generally not welcomed by educators. Some ask; when is the camera switched off; is it after the lessons? What happens if I am working late in the classroom? Do I still get to be watched? Other teachers say it makes them feel as if they are not being trusted enough to teach well without being observed.  The question still begs an answer; should cameras be allowed?