Taking a stand against corporal punishment in schools

Taking a stand against corporal punishment in schools
By Zan Azlee

I do not believe in corporal punishment. Being a parent with two children, I have never hit, smacked or pinched them when they misbehave, not even flicked their ears. This was the same way I was raised by my parents.

There may be the occasional screaming every now and then, but what my family and I really believe in is talking and reasoning things out (OK, fine, the screaming may be a bit more regular than just every now and then).

But jokes aside, we’ve discovered that although talking and reasoning requires a lot more patience than just smacking, the results tend to be long-term. This is obvious. When a person sees the logic of his behaviour, they are more aware and able to control it as well.

Recently, there was a little controversy over guidelines for teachers regarding the methods of disciplining that they are allowed and not allowed to mete out on students in school.

According to the guidelines, the punishments that are not allowed (or no longer allowed) are as follows:

Physical: Standing under the hot sun, running around a field, standing for too long in or outside of the classroom, hitting oneself or one another, standing on a chair or table, pulling the hair or ears, hitting with an object such as a ruler or belt, carrying a chair or book, pinching, physical exercise, and hitting.

Mental or emotional: Cutting hair, doing classwork while standing, nagging, hanging signs on the body, public shaming, detention during recess, insults, using chalk to draw on the face, tearing exercise books, threatening, ignoring, and not marking exercise books

If you are my age or older, you would probably be quite familiar with almost all of the punishments listed above. I certainly have experiences where I have either seen these punishments meted out to my fellow students, or where I have been on the receiving end.

Just because I grew up in an era when these punishments were the norm doesn’t mean that I agree with or believe in them. These methods of punishment are archaic, and I would even go as far as saying that it is barbaric.

Corporal punishment that borders on abuse is obviously bad for the psychological development of the child. It is proven to actually promote violence, increase bullying, and instils a fear of pain rather than actually educating the child on what is right and wrong.

The only reason an adult would resort to corporal punishment on a child is when they lack good parenting or teaching skills. They are too lazy or just can’t be bothered to actually think of better and more progressive methods of punishment.

I can’t deny the fact that raising your hand or an object to stop a child from misbehaving is quite effective in an immediate sense. The child will definitely stop the bad behaviour at that particular time. But what happens after?

Right now, the opinions regarding the circular have been divided, with many people actually still in support of corporal punishment against children. This is surprising, considering that we are already almost in 2018.

I had assumed that with all the progress being made in other aspects of society, we would understand human and child psychology much better, and would actually want to do better in raising our children. Turns out that there still many archaic and barbaric people out there.

However, even if we look at history, or even religious history for that matter, those who used to live thousands of years ago were also less barbaric. Prophet Muhammad himself never hit a child and doesn’t even mention doing it.

I think that all of this is really a very close reflection of our current society in Malaysia. We have always been a society that settles for kneejerk reactions, rather than longer term and more permanent solutions.

We tend to look at the symptoms and try to immediately treat those, rather than the disease. As long as in the current time, everything is not disrupted, then perfect. But as soon as everyone is taken out of their comfort zones, they look for quick fixes that may not be as effective.

So this circular on corporal punishments that are forbidden is actually a very good move at a very good time. Malaysians really need to understand that we are striving to progress. We, and society, constantly learn and improve our understanding of ourselves so that we improve.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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6 responses to “Taking a stand against corporal punishment in schools

  1. Hi… you have written plenty of good articles. I love following your write-ups and would always look forward to new ones. Just to share with you… you have published the photo of my daughter – Nadira Deanna, twice already. I would be most grateful if you could contact me on this matter. Thank you very much!


    • Hello Puan Rahah. Thanks so much for your support. Regarding the picture of your daughter, I had permission from the school and also the Ministry of Education to shoot at the school several years ago. If you prefer, I can remove the picture or not use it again in the future. It is no problem for me as I will respect your decision. Thanks!! 🙂


  2. Hello Zan,
    Yes, I would be most grateful if you could remove my daughter’s picture from the said article. Thank You. By the way, if I’m not mistaken, her picture first appeared on your article on racial issues in school as well? So coincidental because Nadira is of Chinese Malay mix…

    Anyway, do keep up the good writings! May God bless all your efforts! Take care!


  3. By the way, I bought your book – ‘Liberal, Malay and Malaysian’. Thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening! I saw it in Kinokuniya Singapore too and got all excited! …. can I have your autograph on the copy of my book, ah?


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