I AM a headmaster and I have been one for more than 30 years. I am also a father of three married children and I have four lovely grandchildren.
I went through primary and secondary schooling during the sixties and seventies. I'm glad to say that I studied in a mission school where discipline was given the utmost priority.
Caning was one of the effective methods used to instil discipline in the students.
I was publicly caned in school for breaking school regulations, such as playing truant and smoking. It was a bitter lesson for me.
Though the caning hurt physically, it was the emotional and psychological hurt that affected me most.
The feeling of guilt and embarrassment went deep down into my soul. I was ashamed when I had to walk in front of my friends.
There was an about-turn in my behaviour. That incident even changed my way of thinking. I repented for my past mistakes and changed for the better.
I became more disciplined and obedient, as well as attentive and punctual. If not for that caning, I might not be what I am now.
Furthermore, my late father, when informed that I had been caned, scolded me for embarrassing him.
Parents nowadays are different in the way they bring up their children. Why do parents pamper their children?
They get emotionally affected when they see their child is upset, what more upon being caned by teachers.
Parents try to protect their children from all kinds of harm. Many spend their entire lives shielding their children from challenges and disappointments.
At the end of the day, children are overprotected and their attitude and behaviour cannot be corrected. If children do wrong and are not corrected then and there, they will make the same mistakes again.
And when these children grow up, they may become spoilt and confused, and cannot differentiate between right and wrong. There must be some punitive deterrent, such as caning, in moulding our children.
The alternative method of disciplining students, known as the restorative approach in Singapore, has not been fully successful.
The counselling and motivational sessions for a few problem students seem tedious and time-consuming. Teaching time is taken away to handle this.
The teacher's role is to teach, not spend too much time trying to find solutions to the problems of a few students. Moreover, teachers are not trained to tackle problem students.
In the United Kingdom riots last year, many youngsters were involved. It showed the alarming decline in discipline among the young, including students, there.
Teachers are afraid to cane students nowadays even though they are permitted to do so under the School (Discipline) Regulation 1959, Education Ordinance 1957.
However, public caning was banned under an education circular in 2006.
The ordinance is outdated and should be amended to make it more comprehensive; input should be sought from all stakeholders.
But we do need a standard operating procedure on corporal punishment. The purpose of the SOP is to protect both parties -- the teacher from being sued by the parents and the student from becoming the victim of excessive caning.
By Zamani Ahmad, Tampoi, Johor Baru
Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 18 June 2012