Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More disciplinary issues

Following on our posts on the student slapping incident here and here, the Star reported two incidents - that a student slapping headmaster in KK had been suspended for 2 months (with full pay) for slapping some 20 students for not handing in their civics homework and that a warden in a school in Sibu forced some students to stand in a fish pond for 30 minutes for clogging up the toilets with their sanitary pads.

I found this old report in the Straits Times Singapore on corporal punishment and I thought that it brings up some good points.

Straits Times, Singapore, 6 October 2003
Abdullah supports using cane in school
But the DPM also cautions against abuse should the Education Ministry expand caning powers to control unruly students

By Reme Ahmad
in Kuala Lumpur

SPARE the rod and spoil the child? Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would seem to agree.

He has concurred with an Education Ministry's proposal to expand the power of caning students to all teachers, instead of just the disciplinary masters and principals.

This followed shocking cases of fighting among students, and reports quoting a ministry official saying that 76,300 students had disciplinary problems, including gangsterism, last year.

But Datuk Seri Abdullah said care must be taken to avoid abuse, and he suggested more discussions between parents and schools before implementing the move in the classroom or during school assemblies.

'I personally would not stop the ministry from implementing caning in schools as long as it is not excessive,' he said.

'We know that children normally fear caning, either in school or at home.

'I agree with caning but there is concern that if all teachers are given the power, there will be excessive caning,' he said in Ipoh on Saturday, in response to questions from reporters.

Yesterday, Datuk Seri Abdullah added that he wants teachers to be trained as counsellors to help troubled students.

The ministry had in 1997 ruled that only principals and discipline masters could use the rod.

But its director-general, Datuk Abdul Rafie Mahat, said recently that all teachers should be allowed to discipline those in their classes. It proposed giving canes to all teachers, amid reports of ill discipline and fighting among groups of students.

A student nearly lost his wrist just two weeks ago after being slashed in a fight between two groups of 22 students in Perak.

This was just days after 12 students ganged up to beat a schoolmate at a matriculation hostel in Malacca.

These two incidents were widely reported in the media and raised alarm bells among educators, parents and government officials.

Malaysian officials, however, were quick to point out that the 76,300 problematic students were less than 1.2 per cent of the total student population of seven million nationwide. Many felt the cane should be used sparingly.

National Unity and Community Development Minister Siti Zaharah Sulaiman said yesterday that children should be caned only in serious cases.

Punishment is a last resort, added a columnist in Mingguan Malaysia newspaper.

Perak's education director, Datuk Adnan Ibrahim, said teachers would use the cane sparingly because they 'fear parents making police reports and the issue being brought to courts and causing problems'.

If this report is still relevant, then public caning in schools is still allowed. What is unclear is what the guidelines are in regards to carrying out this type of corporal punishment.

I've said this before and I'll say it again here. I think there is a place for public caning in our schools but it should be carried out in a way which follows procedure strictly e.g. there should be strict guidelines in regards to the types of offenses that qualify for public caning such as the destruction of school property, public fighting, gross disrespect shown towards teachers or headmasters and so on. I think that slapping students have no place in a classroom since it can be meted out in a way which can be irrational and prone to sudden impulses.

In regards to the other minor offenses such as failure to hand in homework, it's much harder to 'legislate' for such punishment and I think we should leave it up to the wisdom of the teachers and headmasters of the individual schools.


Anonymous said...

Hi Kian Ming,
Good article, just quickly, when did Badawi become the deputy PM? Has Khairy really taken over the prime ministership of the country? Or is there something insidious we don't know about?

Cheers, Jordan.

Anonymous said...

the straits times article is dated year 2003 jordan, abdullah was still mahathir's deputy then.

Anonymous said...

The government needs to add a "punishment 101" subject to the teachers' course which will teach teachers about executing rational and effective punishments.

For the sanitary pad case in Sibu, the teacher SHOULD get the students to CLEAN the toilets instead of asking them to squat in the fish pond. This would be a more effective punishment. I also don't understand why she had to get SCHOOL PREFECTS to clear the clogged toilets o_O. School prefects are supposed to ensure the student community obey school rules, not clean toilets.

Anonymous said...

Teachers cane students because they know students fear caning (a type of physical punishment) in school.

These students grow up. They beat other schoolmates because they know schoolmates fear to be beaten (another type of physical punishment).

what a vicious cycle taught by our education program.

Anonymous said...

I am appalled you suggested public caning for gross disrespect to teachers and principals. That is like giving license to teachers for caning the students for the smallest excuse. Imagine a student too busy playing and laughing with his friends and forget to greet a teacher walking by and the next thing he knows is a wack by a cane out of nowhere, and you would think he deserves that.
I know yougsters are getting disrespectful nowadays but I blame the parents for that.
I was visiting Nanyang Technological University as a visiting faculy some time ago. One day, when I was walking along a covered walkway, I met a group of students coming in the opposite direction and they did not even budge a bit to give way, forcing me out of the walkway onto the grass. Could have fallen into a drain if I wasn't careful. U.S. students have more decency than that even when we are of different colors. It is one small incident but it tells me that even in Singapore, a country that has National Service and supposedly good discipline with Confusian ideals, and what not, and yet their university students not having common respect for an older person. Just go to show that respect is a virtue taught at home and not instilled by a cane. Otherwise, they forget about it when the cane is gone, just like the supposedly bright and educated NTU students.

Anonymous said...

Canning is just plain dumb. An easy way out for a failed educator, whether it is the educator in the family or in the schools.

My 2 kids are studying in high school overseas now. Over there, no teacher can impose any physical punishment on any student. It becomes an offence for which the teacher would be punishable as an ordinary criminal for battery.

So, are their student's lawless or running wild? Hardly! You still have the regular recalcitrants there, but the main body of primary and high school students are very well behaved and well mannered. They are instilled and manifest values such as thrift, kindness, helping the weak, fair play, etc, etc, at a level never seen in Malaysia since my own high school days 35 years ago. How could it all have happened over there? Because they all grew up with friends in the 20 - 60 age-group. Over there, those "friends" are called "teachers".

The kids over there grew up with loads of self-esteem and confidence. Even among those not good in their studies, they are never made to feel second-rate. A human being is valued as a human being; so it does not make sense to their society that one human being could have the right to physically abuse another.

Yet when my son was in primary school here and topped his year every year, he still gets caned by teachers for reasons which until today he still could not comprehend. He is such a model student that one parent was moved to say that if he deserved canning, the entire school would have to be caned.

Sometimes he gets chalk thrown at him by the teacher when he was quietly reading a book and some boys around him were chatting.

On one occasion, he asked a teacher why the teacher threw the chalk at him, and the reply? "If you dont like, can throw it back to me"!! Even my then 9 - 10 yr old kid related the incident to us with utter disbelief.

On another ocassion, a teacher lined up about 20 students, including my son, and whack them with a ruler because "some" of them were "noisy".

Please hazard a guess if my son has any residual respect for the school system here. In fact, he has always told his mother that he learn and enjoy more sitting and reading in Popular Bookshop or MPH than going to school, and we are talking about a "premier" school in KL.

Are we are so deprived of our own self-esteem that we in turn think that others can only be made to understand things through the medium of the cane?

I never agree that our school system is collapsing. I think it has collapsed already. When an education minister himself, being at the very apex of the leadership in an education system, waves the kris in Parliament and expressed pride over that act, hope dont stand a chance.

Anonymous said...

My daughter and her classmates in our school system in the U.S. too have never been punished physically by the principal or teachers because corporal punishment has been abolished in our city school system. (U.S. schools are governed independently by local school systems). Yet, you don't see students running havoc in the classrooms. Those that committed serious offenses would be suspended and in extreme situations, expelled. For the lesser offenses, they can be punished by detention after schools. I agree that the parents are the people responsible. You may have heard in the news where a mother intentionally drove her son to a location to beat up another boy; and another mother also drove her daughter (who was already suspended from school) to fight with another girl. Luckily that never happened In our school system. There was an incident when a father heard some rumors about his daughter and went to school to beat up his daughter with his belt. Guess what happened to the father? He was charged in court but the daughter just asked for a misdemeanor charge so that her father could escape the jail sentence because she just wanted her father to realize that what he did was inappropriate. So, you see that some parents are worst than the kids.
Another thing is that the school should have a reward system to encourage good behavior. For instance, in my daughter's school, the whole school will be rewarded with extra recess time or prize draws, treats, etc., if there is no discplinary problems for certain number of days. That way, there is peer pressure against bad behavior and makes the students proud of their achievement for being orderly.

Anonymous said...

Again I say, send the teachers to study in Singapore's National Institute of Education (At least I bothered to google the name), NIE.

Since they have among the best education system in the world (check the glbal newspapers for saying this, not me who says it), they must produce great teachers too.

Let us not let "face" and ego get into the way of developing our country. We are behind Singapore, just just admit it, learn from them, then be on par and use their experience (and talents if we can poach) to leapfrog ahead. One day we will be ahead. Sticking to our ego of "Malaysia is better than Singapore", will only have us playing football in the muddy kampong field even 20 years later.

Anonymous said...

this is just to comment on what Hamzah said..
singapore's teachers are better because they are only teaching..their main and core business is only teaching..unlike teachers in Malaysia, they have to do everything from the smallest tiniest matters like registration, collecting students' fees, calculating the fees, even counting students' fees, chasing the students who have not paid their fees, entertaining and cater programmes introduced by the government like SMS Sekolah which is not beneficial enough, counting students' reading materials or called as NILAM and more.. how can the teachers be a professional when they dont really have a specific job description which I can see now has been hanky panky..frankly speaking, I pity the teachers as I'm a neighbour to few. They do not complain but I can see it from their eyes that ther r suffering from the chaotic stacking up jobs that they have to deal with.