I REFER to the Sunday Star article on July 7, “Spare not the rod” (online at bit.ly/star_spare). I wish to share my opinion on this topic.
All parents must accept the fact that public schools have the legal right, under the Education (School Discipline) Regulations 1959, to inflict ordinary school punishments as may be necessary to their child for the purpose of maintaining discipline among students. Therefore, whether parents agree or disagree with school punishments really does not matter.
However, the same legal regulations provide the specific nature and contents for school discipline procedures to be carried out in all public schools.
Education (School Discipline) Regulations 1959 clearly state caning or corporal punishment can only be performed by the school head. However, Rule 6 states the school head can delegate this authority to another teacher provided the school head gives express authority to that teacher. If the head fails to do so, and a teacher carries out discipline, there may be legal implications.
Education (School Discipline) Regulations 1959 Rule 5 states that the caning of girl pupils is prohibited; and the caning of boy pupils is limited to a light stroke on the palm of the hand or buttocks over the clothes; and that a record of all punishment inflicted must be kept in an approved form.
It is important for parents to take note that the Education Ministry has also issued guidelines, “Power of Teachers to Cane” Bill 7/2003 on Oct 28, 2003, with a list of examples of what punishments can be meted out for severe, mild and light delinquency.
It is vital for parents whose children are currently studying in public schools to know what these are. It is stated that (1) severe delinquency allows light strokes on buttocks over the clothes, with a maximum of three strokes; (2) mild delinquency allows light strokes on the palm, with a maximum of three strokes; (3) light delinquency allows only a warning plus a counselling session.
The Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka published a book entitled Guidelines On School Discipline Procedures For School Heads And Teachers, (Education Ministry, 1988). Item 3 on page two states that schools must apply universal rules, ie natural justice, before caning any student. In other words, the discipline rules must be fair and reasonable.
No student should be punished without a proper hearing. He must be given an opportunity to state his case and make known what he thinks his mistakes are. The school authority may ask for witnesses or ask other pupils to gather further information from these witnesses before any decision is made.
Since all pupils are under the age of 18, they are also protected by the Child Act 2001: Section 91(g) states only boys can be subject to light canning, not more than 10 strokes while Section 92 covers the manner of caning.
For example, before the caning, the child must be examined by a medical doctor and be certified fit to undergo the caning; he must not be caned on the face, head, stomach, or chest; the child must wear clothes; only a light cane can be used, with average force; and etc. Note that the Child (Amendment) Act 2016 is now in force.
I suggest that compliance with these statutory requirements and guidelines in general is sufficient. However, there is the possibility that caning might be abolished in future.
M.Ed (Discipline Management)
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