TO CANE OR

There is no ev­i­dence that can­ing does any good for chil­dren

New Straits Times - - Opinion -

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.

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