LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE: We must first determine the root causes of disciplinary problems in schools before we resort to caning as a deterrent
SPARE the rod and spoil the child is a well-known saying that has reared its head recently following the call by some quarters for it to be reintroduced in schools. The assumption is that discipline in schools has got out of hand.
Caning is also thought to be an effective disciplinary tool. Some have raised doubts about it, which partly led to the banning of public caning in 2004.
Head teachers are still allowed to cane, however, in the presence of a disciplinary teacher. Nevertheless, the general ban on caning seems to have taken the “sting” out of it. It is no longer the punishment of choice.
It is believed that when students find school more of a chore than a fun place to learn, they are more likely to play truant
The decision to cane must be made in the proper context. For example, if truancy is on the rise — more than 10,000 cases on average annually — then the root causes must first be ascertained.
It is believed that when students find school “boring” and more of a chore than a fun place to learn, they are more likely to play truant.
Those who cannot read and write properly are likely to find school uninteresting because they are not equipped to learn. Truancy, then, is the logical option to them.
The question is, do we cane students when the root causes are not effectively addressed?
Caning was again advocated to deal with the rise of bullying and gangsterism.
It has been reported that the number of students involved in gangsterism in secondary schools has doubled since 2005.
It includes offences such as “extortion, threats and beating people up in an organised manner”.
Could violence on the big screen and TV be among the reasons? If yes, can caning prevent gangsterism if we ignore the real issues?
If the idea is to punish students for their wrongdoing, should those who did not act on the root causes also be reprimanded?
All too often it is the structural and managerial problems that “push” students to behave the way they do.
For example, how many of us are aware that lead poisoning among schoolchildren can result in aggressive behaviour?
Even low levels of lead poisoning lead to hyperactivity, learning disabilities, lowered Intelligence Quotient, speech delay and hearing impairment.
Studies after studies have shown that children who suffer from lead poisoning are more likely to be part of the juvenile justice system and that they are more prone to dropping out of school.
Can caning be a solution if environmental lead pollution in the air, water or soil, for example, is not controlled?
Lead poisoning is preventable if there is a comprehensive policy to tackle it systematically. Do we have one?
It is easy to put the blame on students for all the faults of the system over time.
In the age of computer games and electronics, are we sensitive to their impact on students’ anti-social behaviours, especially when the ubiquitous gadgets may promote violence?
And how about the poor learners who use them to escape from the boredom induced by the classroom environment?
Times have changed so much since the days of “spare the rod and spoil the child”.
In some situations the 3Rs are no longer about reading, writing and arithmetic, but rather about revolvers, repeaters and rifles (read: violence).
We have not even begun to discuss the increasing number of students who have committed suicide as a result of the non-conducive educational environment, where not sparing the rod is of no consequence.
We should look at the big picture to determine the root causes of disciplinary problems in schools.
By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
Source: New Straits Times Learning Curve 02 June 2012