Sunday, 23 January 2011

Corporal punishment and kids' development

Quazi Faruque Ahmed
While our education sector is undergoing some visible changes in both affirmative and negative terms, like commencement of new education policy implementation, distribution of free textbooks to school going children at the beginning of the new year, along with outburst of sexual harassment of girls studying in schools and colleges, a historical order passed by the High Court banning corporal punishment of' students in educational institutions. 
The High Court judgment simultaneously declared corporal punishment unconstitutional and violation of human rights, while disposing writ petition filed by Ain-o-Salish Kendra and Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust. This verdict of the High Court is expected to expedite change in the traditional approach to children in regard to their education and mode of teaching. The government has been asked to constitute an independent national commission to ensure an end to the bad practice as well.
Present and past of the issue: The issue of corporal punishment of students in schools is a burning one in our country. But also a lot of controversies centres around it for long in different countries, no matter developed or undeveloped or developing. In the recent past, corporal punishment has been outlawed in most of Europe and in Canada, Japan, South Africa, New Zealand and several other countries. It is banned in state schools in 30 states of the USA. In two of such states, New Jersey and Iowa, it is illegal in private schools as well. In 1867 New Jersey became the first US state to abolish corporal punishment in schools. The second was Massachusetts, 104 years later in 1971. The most recent state in the USA to outlaw school corporal punishment was Ohio in 2009. It is interesting to point out that much of the traditional culture that surrounds corporal punishment in school, at any rate in the English-speaking world, derives largely from the British practice in the l9th and 20th centuries, particularly as regards the caning of teenage boys.

Many schools in Singapore and Malaysia use caning for boys as a routine official punishment for misconduct, as also some African countries. In some Middle Eastern countries, whipping is used. In South Korea, male and female secondary students alike are commonly spanked in school. Caning was completely abolished in 1967 in Denmark and in 1983 in Germany. From the 1917 revolution onwards, corporal punishment was outlawed in Russia. In Australia, corporal punishment is banned by law in all schools in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, and Tasmania. In Victoria, it is banned in government schools but not in private schools. In Canada, the Supreme Court outlawed school corporal punishment in 2004. All corporal punishment has been theoretically banned since the communist revolution in China in 1949, though in practice, students are caned or paddled in some schools. The systematic use of corporal punishment has been absent from French schools since the 19th century. There is no explicit legal ban on it, but in 2008 a teacher was fined for slapping a student. Corporal punishment in Greek primary schools was banned in 1998 and in secondary schools in 2005. Italy banned it in 1928. Caning is a common form of discipline in many Malaysian schools. Legally it should be applied only to male students, but the idea of making the caning of girls lawful has recently been debated, This would, be applied to the palm of the hand, whereas boys are typically caned across the seat of the trousers.

In the Netherlands, it was banned in 1920. Corporal punishment is prohibited in private and public schools in the Philippines. It is legal in Singapore schools for male students only and fully encouraged by the government in order to maintain strict discipline. Only a light rattan cane may be used. This must be administered in a formal ceremony by the school management after due deliberation, not by classroom teachers. Corporal punishment is lawful and in wide use in South Korean schools. It usually takes the form of disciplining the student with a stick that is too rigid and thick to be called a cane in the traditional British sense. Other "tools" such as sawn-off billiard cues and hockey sticks are used as well. It is often applied to the student's clothed buttocks, but may also be given on the calves, the soles of the feet, or the front and back of the thighs. Boys and girls alike are frequently punished in this manner by teachers for any offence in school. In Spain, it was banned in 1985. In Sweden, corporal punishment at school has been prohibited since January 01, 1958. In Thailand corporal punishment in schools is illegal under the Ministry of Education Regulation.

Findings of research: It is true that there are divergent views on corporal punishment of students in schools. Though the tilt is towards bringing an end to it. Principal of John C. Calhoun Elementary in Calhoun Hills, South Carolina, David Nixon, a supporter of corporal punishment in schools, maintains that as soon as the students have been punished he can go back to his class and continue learning, in contrast to out-of-school suspension, which removes him from the educational process and gives him a free "holiday". Philip Berrigan, a Catholic priest, who taught at St. Augustine High School in New Orleans said that corporal punishment saved much staff time that would otherwise have been devoted to supervising detention classes or in-school suspension... Parents, too, often complain about the inconvenience occasioned by penalties such as detention or Saturday school.

However, research shows that corporal punishment is not effective as positive means for managing student behaviour. These studies have linked corporal punishment to adverse physical, psychological and educational outcomes including, "increased aggressive and destructive behaviour, increased disruptive classroom behaviour, vandalism, poor school achievement, poor attention span, increased drop-out rate, school avoidance and school phobia, low self-esteem, anxiety, somatic complaints, depression, suicide and retaliation against teacher."

Child psychology and the philosophy of education: It is needless to discuss in details about the existing situation in our sub-continent vis a vis punishment of students in educational institutions, since it is very much within our knowledge. It is more or less identical. Still it is imperative to make some observations in the context of Bangladesh. A large number of our teachers are unaware of the child psychology and the philosophy of education along with the latest mode of imparting it in an attractive manner, especially to our children in schools or equivalent institutions.

In the classroom, the natural inquisitiveness and spontaneous queries of the children are suppressed in our country. The prevalent atmosphere in and around the educational institutions and the stereotyped class routine also are not congenial to the normal development of our students. But the situation is now poised to change for the better.

Education Policy 2010 has stipulated the strategy: "Respecting the natural inquisitiveness and curiosity of the children and using their vitality and vivacity they will be nurtured with love and affection in a pleasant environment. Protection for the children shall be ensured so that they do not, in any way, become the victim of and physical or mental torture."

The timely and highly commendable High Court Judgment which prohibited caning, beating, confining or chaining children or otherwise subjecting them to any cruel and degrading and inhuman punishment in the educational institutions, will help us go a long way in achieving desired development of our children. We would like to be optimistic to the extent that it will be followed by the concerted and coordinated efforts of our teachers, guardians, policy makers and the government which will lead the nation in the night direction. For that matter, recruitment of qualified teachers to teach with dedication and affection along with measures to be taken for ensuring their due status covering both financial and social aspects, is the need of the hour.

Prof. Quazi Faruque Ahmed is the Chairman, Initiative for Human Development (IHD) and Member, National Education Policy Implementation Committee 

No comments:

Post a Comment