Corporal punishment is last resort

Posed photo of a girl holding her hand after being caned at home.
Posed photo of a girl holding her hand after being caned at home.PHOTO: ST FILE

When I was a child some 80 years ago, it was de rigueur for every home to have a cane prominently displayed on the wall in the hall.

In the Chinese school I attended, a cane would be visible at all times in the classroom, too. At the time, caning took place in school. I remember wearing two pairs of shorts on occasions to spare my buttocks the pain.

Once, I was caned for gambling. I did not even dare tell mum, lest she decided to cane me too.

This was the trust and respect parents of that era held for teachers.

Years later, when I went back to this school as a teacher, caning was still practised - but it was resorted to much less frequently.

Discipline is an acquired attribute which has to be taught - at home by parents and in schools by teachers.

Each child is unique - he behaves and learns differently. With one child, a hard stare will stop his misbehaving. With another, perseverance may be needed.

Unfortunately, there is always a small but significant number who do not respond to these "soft" approaches.

Take, for example, the mother-and-child tug of war, a common sight seen in public.

The child refuses to stop his misbehaviour until the frustrated mother says: "Wait till you get home!"

Not only does the child stop instantly, he even apologises. On hearing the word "home", he remembers that mum has a cane in her room. He remembers, too, how painful it was the last time he was caned.

When a school resorts to corporal punishment, it is because it is the only option remaining. The Ministry of Education's directives are followed: the principal is consulted, the procedure is witnessed and recorded, and the parents are notified.

What is needed most today is the full support, trust, cooperation and appreciation from parents.

Corporal punishment should always play an essential role in a school's discipline programme.

Cheng Lian Seah