THE Education Ministry and those favouring or opposing the introduction of caning to discipline schoolgirls must be behind time. They give the impression that this is something new.
In fact, caning of girls has been practised for decades in Chinese-medium primary schools and is still going on, with or without permission from the education department.
It may be something new in national schools, but certainly not to Chinese parents with children in national-type ones. In Chinese-medium schools, caning would start on the first day of Standard One.
Parents may not like their princesses being caned but they accept it as part of the learning and disciplinary process. Of course this would be done in the classroom and on pupils of both sexes, especially in the first week of school.
This is one way for teachers to impose their authority, and the cane would be used for the slightest excuse.
Once pupils get the message, they tend to behave.
But caning is carried out as a punishment for indiscipline and not doing their homework. This is definitely an abuse of authority since the punishment must fit the crime.
Parents are likely to keep quiet unless the physical punishment is too drastic and leaves marks or causes injury.
Otherwise, keeping quiet is the norm and few parents would dare to confront the teacher.
Such punishment is naturally a traumatic experience for a seven-year-old girl who may have been so pampered at home that being caned or slapped by anyone would be a shock.
Some of them have developed a phobia and would become hysterical should they forget to bring a book.
They would call home and their mother would have to rush to school with the book to calm down the child.
There is a culture of fear existing in such Chinese-medium schools that have been going on for far too long.
The teacher’s excuse is that with as many as 50 pupils in each class, it would be difficult to enforce discipline without caning.
While there may be a case for the cane to deal with secondary school girls, for some of them can be quite wild, imposing the same punishment on primary ones for minor mistakes should be discouraged.
It is time the education department’s Chinese schools section persuade primary head teachers that such force should not be used on young children.
There is little doubt that at the primary level, all girls would have been caned at least once. This has definitely left a scar on them but, strangely, parents who are quite vocal on other issues are prepared to accept this practice.
The department must issue new guidelines, and the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry should give its input to deal with this problem.