TO CANE OR
There is no evidence that caning does any good for children
CORPORAL punishment can be divinely mandated by some religions and is commonly practised in religious schools around the world.
This form of discipline is also reported in some Christian fundamentalist schools in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, despite the detrimental and long-lasting impact as revealed by research.
Similarly, it is not unusual for many to believe it is still an appropriate form of discipline for students at tahfiz (religious schools) in this country.
A high degree of discipline is required to educate and discipline these boys from tahfiz. While those who attend these schools focus on memorising the Quran, there are some parents who register their children in the hope of changing them for the better. These students usually enter the school with disciplinary problems from home that the schools have to deal with.
The death of 11-year-old Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gaddafi, allegedly beaten by a hostel warden at a tahfiz in Johor, has once again sparked the debate over whether corporal punishment is an appropriate form of discipline.
The administrators of the tahfiz, at which Thaqif attended for only 57 days, argued that the abuse was not what happened to him as he was not a child with problems. They further claimed that the school has more than 80 students who have been with them for a year and are more problematic in terms of discipline and conduct.
Given that corporal punishment is still such a common and controversial form of punishment, many heralded it as the best way to discipline children. For some parents, the practice of beating continues to be treated as normal as it should be in the name of “love”.
Norms relating to femininity mean that girls are inherently obedient, submissive and should not be hit. Boys, on the other hand, are supposed to be able to accept physical punishment and to withstand pain.
In our issue on May 2, we asked teens what their take is on the proverb, “spare the rod, spoil the child”.
Interestingly, out of the eight teens who shared their opinions, the boys — all four of them — believed corporal punishment is a form of discipline to maintain obedience and control. One of them also said mischievous children who were not caned would grow up to become irresponsible adults.
There are opinions that proper philosophy and approach is extremely important in choosing to cane.
First, it is important to understand that the concepts of punishment and discipline are absolute opposites. Punishment is said to be motivated by anger, resulting in either compliance, which can be due to fear or rebellion, adding on to the feelings of shame, guilt and/or hostility. On the other hand, discipline is motivated by love for the child, focuses on the future, and results in obedience and feelings of security.
Second, a child should always receive a clear warning before any offence that might merit a caning and understand why he or she is to receive this disciplinary
WEDNESDAY, MAY 10, 2017 action. If he or she deliberately disobeys, the child should be informed of the upcoming caning and escorted to a private area. The caning should be lovingly administered in a clear and consistent manner. Later, the lesson should be gently reiterated so that the child understands and learns from this experience.
On another argument, caning is most effective as a deterrent to undesirable behaviour only for younger children. That is because reasoning and taking away privileges often simply don’t work with kids in that age range. Caning should be phased out completely before adolescence.
However, many researchers concluded that there is no evidence that caning does any good for children and all evidence points to the risk of it doing harm.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund’s statistical analysis of violence against children published in 2014, 60 per cent of children around the world receive some kind of physical punishment. Ironically, only a small percentage of children worldwide are protected by law. In many countries, it is still legal to hit this most vulnerable group adults are charged to protect.
While we hear child advocates working to outlaw the practice for good and contending that any form of physical correction equates to child abuse, only 52 countries around the world have prohibited corporal punishment in all settings, including the home.
France has become the 52nd country to ban corporal punishment in schools and homes. Malaysia is among the countries where the practice is not fully prohibited in any setting.
Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid recently announced that all tahfiz will now have to comply with guidelines set by the Education Ministry in areas such as discipline as well as the welfare of teachers and students. Unfortunately, a child’s death is the catalyst to take this matter seriously.
It is about time that students attending tahfiz are safeguarded, given sufficient quality education and prepared emotionally to enter the adult world.
It will be important to ensure that teachers in these schools have proper training and awareness not only to teach, but also to discipline the students. When placed in situations where they have to enforce discipline, teachers should do it the “right” way, that is, the non-physical way.
The writer left her teaching career more than 20 years ago to take on different challenges beyond the conventional classroom. As NST’s education editor, the world is now her classroom
The concepts of punishment and discipline are absolute opposites — punishment is said to be motivated by anger, whereas discipline is motivated by love.