A school is an educational establishment designed to offer learning places and learning environments specifically for the learning of children under the direct supervision of qualified teachers. Most developed countries now have systems of public formal education, which may be either compulsory or voluntary. In such systems, children progress through a sequence of primary schools before graduating to tertiary or higher schools. At secondary level, they again progress through various secondary schools, where they gain further qualifications before graduating to tertiary level schools. The pattern then follows in most developed countries, with the major exception of Ireland, that has a system of education that combines both stages of primary and secondary school.
In many jurisdictions in the United States of America, a growing number of children are being sent to private schools, especially those considered to offer the least restrictive environment possible to children of their present age and stage of development. The increasing number of children who now attend private schools has led to questions and concerns about the nature of discipline, motivation and other important aspects of effective schooling, particularly traditional public schools. Concern has also been expressed about the impact that charter schools may have on the quality of education available to poor and minority students. In other words, some have argued that children of color and other disadvantaged factors are being shut out from mainstream public schools and are receiving inappropriate treatment by those schools which are established as non-profit organizations with taxpayer money.
Concerns are also growing among parents about the academic and other educational practices adopted by traditional public schools, especially in the matter of discipline methods. One major argument advanced against virtual schools and against traditional public schools is the alleged absence of discipline in virtual schools. In its favor, virtual schools assert that discipline is achieved through the use of zero tolerance policies, student-led initiatives and other similar approaches. These arguments are obviously based on a limited understanding of what discipline means and how it affects the learning process. It is clear that a discussion of the meaning of discipline is long overdue.