Can punishment bring about positive change in students? A survey on corporal punishment, conducted in Corporation and matriculation schools in the city, has suggested alternatives.
Fifty per cent of the 100 parents felt that punishment does bring about change, while the remaining disagreed. The same question posed to 200 teachers revealed that 66 per cent were in favour of punishment as a way to mend a child for unacceptable behaviour, while the remaining were against it. The study was done by six first-year students of Madras School of Social Work as part of a project work.
While schools defend disciplinary action, in a majority of the incidents punishment do not go down well either with the child or parent. On Tuesday, parents of Harish Raj, a class VII student of Balalok Matriculation School, gave a written complaint about the school management to Inspector of Matriculation School S. Tamilmani. According to Sangeetha Vijayraj, mother of Harish, their son had been the subject of verbal abuse for quite sometime by most of the teachers. What annoyed us further was when he was asked to sit on the floor in the classroom as we did not attend the parents meeting held last Saturday, she said.
When contacted, the principal of the school said the boy was asked to sit on the floor as he disrespected the teacher. “Corporal punishment is not advocated in the school, but a child cannot show his emotion to a teacher by taking a pencil and throwing it on the floor,” she said.
Though there is a complaint cell set up by the School Education Department (Ph: 28273591) and the Childline helpline (1098), the awareness that one can complain about corporal punishment, among others, is less. Experts say teacher training should incorporate contemporary ways to tackle indiscipline. “The management has to be made to understand that hardcore deadlines cannot be set for teachers. They should not overload or overwhelm a teacher, and the curriculum has to be set keeping in mind the development of the child,” said Padma Srinath, early childhood teacher, American International School Chennai. “In case of unacceptable behaviour, the child should be addressed on a one-to-one basis. If the behaviour is repeated for three times, a counsellor should be brought in,” Ms. Srinath added. Student and family counsellor Arundhati Swamy says a child should be made aware of the disciplinary action likely in the event of he or she not following the rules. “A school that has a counsellor can offer help to the child, but if a school cannot afford one, a neutral person/coordinator with some kind of training should be brought in,” she added.