The other side of corporal punishment

Published: March 15, 2013

The writer is an educationist. He is currently the principal of Sir Adamjee Institute in Karachi

Our parliamentarians hastily passed a bill banning corporal punishment in schools. Laws cannot be made in a vacuum, or in haste. I believe that the lawmakers neither consulted the views of teachers across the country nor debated the matter at length. They simply relied on sensational television reports portraying teachers as demons. Unfortunately, our rulers seem to be in the grip of populism and are trying to play to the gallery.

As a teacher and son of a teacher myself, I value the importance of corrective punishment and if this traditional right is taken away from teachers, it will bring more chaos to our dilapidated educational system. Something which is drastically wrong with our national psyche is that anyone mighty or in a place of authority is always thought to be wrong and the rest innocent. The truth is that as a nation, all of us possess double standards and mob mentality.

I vividly remember my days as a school-going lad at Government High School and Municipal High School Larkana, where we were subject to punishment on various offences. On late attendance, the drill teacher would assemble all defaulters in front of the headmaster’s office and the headmaster would slap five canes on each hand. Similarly, for each spelling mistake or failure to complete homework, the same treatment was meted out to us. Even any complaint by the gardeners or peons would lead us into trouble. Our teachers commanded such respect that if we were out on the streets engaging in juvenile pastime pleasures, we would vanish from the place upon learning of the teacher’s presence — obviously, on the information of the lookout posted for this purpose.

Based on my personal experience, both as a teacher and principal, it is the student who usually initiates the process of offending the teacher. The most common reasons for a teacher to avail corporal punishment are constant absenteeism, disruptive classroom behaviour, non-compliance with instructions, not completing homework and not bringing academic material to class.

Curiously enough, the collusion of parents with students aggravates the situation. Instead of reprimanding and disciplining their children, parents take sides. The teacher’s action is never impulsive; it is a reaction to the teacher feeling humiliated and after finding no recourse, resorting to manhandling as a last resort. I am not trying to defend any excesses committed by teachers on their students but unfortunately, we are looking at this issue with a jaundiced eye.

Like all other controversial laws, this bill, too, has the probability of being used as vendetta and to settle personal scores. Since a teacher is vulnerable, it is convenient to make him or her a scapegoat. I would have been happier if the intimidation of law-abiding citizens by armed thugs in black vehicles bearing government and civil number plates instead would have been declared unlawful.

There are more important issues which lawmakers should look into rather than taking up the politically expedient issue of corporal punishment. Nobody in parliament has raised an eyebrow at obsolete textbooks being used in schools and colleges — particularly, the English textbooks taught at the intermediate level. And, why is no law being enacted to curb the tendency of student absenteeism and, more importantly, teacher absenteeism?

Let us hope that we may see an educated parliament after the forthcoming elections as education is too serious a business to be left to the whims of non-serious and uneducated parliamentarians.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2013.

Reader Comments (24)

  • Zain
    Mar 15, 2013 - 10:53PM

    Is this guy serious? Will we now see someone writing against the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill as well? Defending rape to follow?

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  • MallRoadIcedTea
    Mar 15, 2013 - 11:00PM

    Can someone kindly get this man the UN Declarations on Human Rights and documents on the Rights of the Child. And then put him in a museum so he won’t hurt anyone.

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  • Nadir El-Edroos
    Mar 15, 2013 - 11:09PM

    Wow! What an epiphany! Parents siding with their children! The horror!

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  • Nadir El-Edroos
    Mar 15, 2013 - 11:10PM

    Its a good thing you have managed to become a teacher and a principal in Pakistan. With your views and if you act on them you would be in jail and sued multiple times in most countries.

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  • Salma
    Mar 15, 2013 - 11:44PM

    he claims to be an educationist and ET publishes this kind of stuff.

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  • Salma
    Mar 15, 2013 - 11:46PM

    moreover the CP act did not come into exisitence cause of some sponsored media campaigns. This issue has been researched for over a decade and alternative disciplining training have also been provided to teachers.

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  • MSS
    Mar 16, 2013 - 12:22AM

    The author is an experienced teacher, that is valuable. That he is the son of a teacher is ad hominem. That does not make his opiniion more relevant.
    Corporal punishment is at best an immediate, visible and effective deterrent for only a fraction of all school children. It does not alter the actual attitudes, it just moderates their behaviour some what temporarily. for a majority, it does not work.Corporal punishment should be available but used very sparingly, as a last resort and in the presence of other responsible adults. Students should not be caned for not doing their homework or being late to school. The teachers must never abuse this mode of punishment as it can impact a child’s personality. Parents should support the school policy which must be made clear from the start.
    I have worked in environments where corporal punishment is unlawful. The students learn just as well, may be more. On the other hand, in the subcontinent, teachers have been reported and seen to abuse their authority. In many cases they cause bodily harm to children using excessive force. It is a little surprise parents take their children’s side. Talking to children and reasoning with them helps a great deal more than using physical force.

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  • Saif M
    Mar 16, 2013 - 12:28AM

    With people like him heading our schools and colleges, we can understand why our education standards are going down.Recommend

  • Brutus
    Mar 16, 2013 - 12:35AM

    He is any thing but an educationist. I sympathise the students learning at your school/college.Recommend

  • Abid P. Khan
    Mar 16, 2013 - 12:43AM

    It is indeed very shocking to hear this, specially from an educationist. As pointed out by others, this gentleman would be behind bars in many countries for propagating such ideas. In his long teaching career he might have chanced upon some report explaining why punishment does not produce desired result.
    .
    Saudis have been chopping off hands and heads for as long as one can remember, yet there are enough candidates to receive the same treatment, after Friday prayers.

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  • pak_liberal
    Mar 16, 2013 - 1:47AM

    Sir, you are a disgrace to our education system. It is this mindset of yours which must be removed. It is the enigma of our society that we are lacking behind in education.

    Can you imagine what would have case if you were in some foreign country? A teacher cannot even raise a voice at a child there let alone physically and mentally torture him.

    I’m sorry but this stone age mentality has been just disappear. It was a great bill and i hope it gets implemented and teachers like you face the consequences.

    People like you even make sayings to make appease these mindsets. This should not be replaces with ‘SPARE THE ROD, SAVE THE CHILD’

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  • Nadir El-Edroos
    Mar 16, 2013 - 1:56AM

    Not to mention that the author believes that an uneducated and corrupt legislative has passed legislation that bans corporal punishment, and then thinks that an educated and learned, elected parliament will undo this and allow corporal punishment? If this is what he thinks education is, then this amply shows why and how we fail our children in schooling in our country. As a teacher I find it embarrassing, unethical and unprofessional to raise a hand against a child, whatever the circumstances. If your teachers in your youth slapped you around they were bad teachers. The fact that you justify their actions today shows how poor teaching practises have been internalised. And as a principal if you continue to tolerate such acts, then another generation is lost.

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  • Awais Tanveer
    Mar 16, 2013 - 1:57AM

    “Our teachers commanded such respect that if we were out on the streets engaging in juvenile pastime pleasures, we would vanish from the place upon learning of the teacher’s presence — obviously, on the information of the lookout posted for this purpose.”

    What an horrible description of respect. This is fear teacher instill in their students which stops them to even play in front of their teacher

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  • Adil
    Mar 16, 2013 - 2:46AM

    I am glad that you were not a teacher at my school.

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  • Naive
    Mar 16, 2013 - 2:46AM

    It is a good step from the government to ban the CP in school/colleges. But unless it is also banned in homes, it would be counter productive. Children would not listen to their teachers unless the methods applied in their upbringing to disciplene them are used in schools.

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  • Kafir Khan
    Mar 16, 2013 - 8:45AM

    This educator is getting his students to become accustomed to punishments that in later life will be meted out by Taliban style shariah laws.

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  • Waseem Arain
    Mar 16, 2013 - 9:44AM

    @Zain @MallRoadIcedTea @Nadir El-Edroos @Salma @MSS
    corporal punishment (CP) in schools is allowed and practiced in as many as 19 states in US. The bill “Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act” introduced in Congress
    October 13, 2010 is still pending… Another bill “To deny funds to educational programs that allow corporal punishment.” which was introduced in June 18, 1992 has still not become a law and is pending. Singapore is another country where CP is a regulated practice. A complete list of school CP practices world over can be viewed at http://www.corpun.com/usscr2c.htm Thus, one should not analyze a situation with skewed version of the facts rather a sensible, balanced and holistic approach to a problem leads us to a viable solution.

    Given the facts, I think author has a valid point that legislation should not be done in haste and this should have been debated and experts consulted. By experts I mean school masters and principals who deal with the situation on ground everyday not few western-educated-consultants having little or NO appreciation of the ground realities. Advocating western laws, without assessing our cultural ethos and national needs has become a popular drawing-room solution by those of us who somehow are educated in western schools or half educated here in elite suburbs.

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  • faheema
    Mar 16, 2013 - 12:29PM

    “why is no law being enacted to curb the tendency of student absenteeism and, more importantly, teacher absenteeism?”. Excellent suggestion, thanks. Hope some lawmaker seriously look into this matter, main issue requiring immediate interference by parliament.

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  • amoghavarsha.ii
    Mar 16, 2013 - 1:03PM

    All anti Corporal punishment people should first give ideas
    1. how they will make there wards/students/children, do there homeworks/ be ontime to school/ behave properly in school with teachers and other students.
    Every body know what the output of education system of US has become over the years.

    simply speaking young minds do not know what is good for them and what is bad.
    They also do not have sufficient knowledge/experience to know about good/bad.

    Also most importantly, people should not think that teachers are happy to thrash students.
    Every body – parents/citizens should know that teachers job would be much much easier if all students are well behaved and learn well.
    Parents should first teach there children to respect teachers and should never abuse teacher in front of there children.

    people who are saying corporal punishment is not good, should definitely think and give ideas/suggestions and costs involved in achieving the expected results

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  • Moiz Omar
    Mar 17, 2013 - 2:36AM

    The author of this article, shows why Pakistan’s education system is a failure. Beating kids does not help in the long term. It might temporarily, but in the long term will be severly negative. Such things can lead kids to eventual suicide. Recommend

  • IZ
    Mar 17, 2013 - 8:16AM

    As a teacher with 14 years of experience let me just say that if you feel the need to raise your hand against a child then you have failed as a teacher.

    Every teacher I knew from when I was a child who resorted to corporal punishment was not only a 3rd rate teacher but also a 3rd rate human being. Fear of corporal punishment does not promote learning it only promotes the appearance of conformity. The excuse that harming children is “for their own good” is false – its only purpose is to release the frustrations of the teacher.

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  • amoghavarsha.ii
    Mar 18, 2013 - 4:47PM

    @IZ, i see lot of ignorance in you.
    you say ” as a teacher with 14 years of experience…..”
    1. can you tell me who is your first teacher……….
    2. Did that person every beat you…………
    3. Was that person a 3rd rate teacher……..
    4. Was that person a 3rd rate human being……….

    if you answer the first question correctly you will have the answer for the rest and for yourself too…..

    my advice to you is First respect your teacher then your students will respect you.

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  • Okasha Iqbal
    Mar 19, 2013 - 9:35PM

    Well, corporal punishment bill is in my opinion is a good one because students come to school or college to learn something not get punishment and when they get punishment by their teachers, they pick from their teachers that for the acceptance of your opinion, you need to beat your students or children and they do the same thing to their elder brothers and sisters. Young boys are already very cruel nowadays in Pakistan. So, this makes them more cruel. As far as I am concern, a student respects his/her teacher when teacher respects him/her. I think we have no right to be respected by teacher but nowadays, students are egomaniacs and when they get beaten by their teachers, they feel embarrassment and they run away from education. Corpol punishment bill also exists in America and other countries then why are their students better than our’s? If punishment makes a man better, then criminals must be the best people in the world because they are beaten mercilessly in jails but they are same after prison. I think this is a good initiative by our government and all credit goes to Shahzad Roy.

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  • Okasha Iqbal
    Mar 19, 2013 - 10:01PM

    I am sorry to say my teacher Mr Commander Najeeb Anjum that that report wasn’t sensational. That report was based on facts. I am sorry to say that this is happening. I suffered from such sort of punishments when I was in School. Punishment that tortures a student. Sir with all due respect, when you were in a school, the time was different and students were thristy for knowledge and education but today’s students is different. His main objective is to earn money and change the lifestyle. Student knows one way of success and that is “ratta” and they fail when they practically do the thing. I have also suffered with such punishments on late coming, homework etc. Nowadays, a responsible student does his homework. I think there is no force on the earth that makes an unresponsible student to do his homework. I agree to you that parliamentarians should do something about this old textbooks. This is a most important matter as compare to corporal punishment and that’s the reason we have descoveries nowadays in Science or computer. Government should replace these books to advance text books. Books must be creative so that the thinking of students get creative.

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