Time for corporal punishment in schools?

MS CATHERINE Ng’s letter (“Timely reminder for ‘monster parents’ “; last Saturday) reminds me of similar stories I frequently hear from friends whose spouses or children are school teachers.

It underscores the great stress teachers face from the exacting demands of not only their schools and the Education Ministry, but also unreasonable and disrespectful parents.

Some teachers are chided and blamed when they notify parents of their children’s habitual tardiness, refusal to submit homework, misbehaviour and so on.

Some years ago, a friend’s wife, who taught in a well-known boys’ school, reprimanded a student for breaking some flower pots. The student’s father, an influential and affluent individual, demanded that the teacher be dismissed.

The principal was torn between supporting the teacher, who did nothing wrong, and the parent, who had made substantial monetary contributions to the school. Eventually, to resolve the matter, the teacher resigned.

On the one hand, parents expect schools to teach students good moral values, on top of developing their academic and mental abilities. On the other hand, they are quick to blame the schools when their children deviate from acceptable norms. In doing so, they are condoning negative behaviour.

So, unless we take concrete steps to address this problem, we risk raising generations of people who are ill-disciplined, morally deficient and disobedient, with no qualms about using influence and affluence unfairly.

We need a concerted effort by the ministry, schools and parents, working as partners, to address this problem.

First, principals must support the teachers as long as the latter’s actions are fair and reasonable. They must not succumb to pressure from parents, no matter how influential they are.

Similarly, the ministry must impress upon principals and teachers their role as imparters of knowledge and moral values, and not succumb to threats from parents.

Second, while schools are expected to impart good values to students, parents must not scuttle or negate these efforts by setting bad examples for their children.

Perhaps it is time to re-introduce corporal punishment in schools, which is effective if meted out judiciously.

Lawrence Loh Kiah Muan

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