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Corporal punishment and school children



It was way back in 1930s that corporal punishment was abolished at Ananda College by the then principal Mr. P de S Kularatne, one of the greatest educationists this country has produced. We were never caned or physically assaulted or verbally abused. The common methods of punishment were extra home work, detention, cleaning the class room, writing out a 1000 times that we would not to repeat the same behaviour etc. Also during this period while some of the traditional public schools in Colombo insisted on a uniform, at Ananda we had no uniform and some children came to school in the national dress. The question of punishing a child for not wearing a uniform would not have even arisen The discipline at Ananda was among the best in the country at the time. I believe it was the only schools at the time where there was no corporal punishment. The present writer who is a senior citizen recalls with horror some forms of inhuman and humiliating punishments meted out to children in some of the schools of his time sometimes in the form of public canning at the morning assembly . At that time our schools were modelled on the English public school where this kind of punishment was very much in vogue. Also there was the belief that sparing the rod spoils the child .

The article titled Discipline and Punishment in Schools by Dr Theekshana Suraweera in The Island of 21 Wednesday 2005 is both very informative and useful. Reading through this article one realizes how far educationists have moved away from the primitive idea of corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure in the schools .

This particular incident at the D. S. Senanayake College where the child was assaulted by three teachers for not wearing the school uniform is unpardonable The sentence of three years of imprisonment is in keeping with the law of the land as decided by the learned judge . It has nothing to do with school discipline. If one commits the crime by assaulting a person resulting in injuries that are of a grievous nature, then there are the prescribed laws of the country under which punishment is meted out to one if if found guilty. If corporal punishment in schools is banned by law and not only by a circular of the Education Department, then the thee teachers are guilty on two counts. The protests against this judgment by the Association of Educational Professionals is ridiculous . On the other hand, if they are professionals, then they must ensure that the members act professionally and take appropriate disciplinary action against members who bring disrepute to their noble profession. They should not try to take a lesson from private bus owners / drivers. Does the Association of Educational Professionals approve of corporal punishment to school children ? Their views on the subject should be made known before they make any protests.

This should be followed by adequate discussions and debate before any steps are taken to change the progressive step taken to ban corporal punishment in our schools

Often it is through anger that these teachers inflict physical and verbal punishments on children and not so much with the benevolent ideas of disciplining them. The billboard put up by the child protection society requesting the parents to count up to ten when one is angry should be followed by teachers as well .

There is no doubt that there is some degree of indiscipline among school children today . There is no documented evidence to show that this is increasing or is more than what it was when we were school children Common forms are bullying , violence towards fellow students, crude foul language, destruction of property, stealing, lying etc etc . We have nearly 4 million children in our schools today and the numbers involved in this kind of behaviour are small and limited to a few situations .It is important to examine carefully the underlying causes if there are any before rushing to use physical violence on our children in the name of discipline . School children are only a part of our society and if one takes a hard look at the society today, it is quite evident that these offences are much more common among adults than children . It is also well established that the children who exhibit such anti-social behaviour often come from environments where the adult behaviour is similar. Discipline in children is a common responsibility of parents teachers and society as a whole and all partners must make their contribution with commitment.

The features in New Zealand in respect of student discipline so well illustrated by Dr Suraweera are worthy of serious consideration . Our educationists , teachers, parents should read this article carefully, study a few other country models and also consult other professionals like paediatricians, child psychologists, psychiatrists before re-introducing the primitive methods of the 19 century into our school system in the name of disciplining our children .Attempts to intimidate the authorities by threatening strike action is most unbecoming of our educational professionals and should be resisted by all those interested in the well being of our children.


The opposition to President Kumaratunga's plan that the state and the insurgent should work together on a humanitarian issue is now in the highest forum of reasoned domestic legal debate. It is imperative that intransigents on both sides of the ethnic divide realise that their ultimate responsibility is to the voiceless victims of Sri Lanka's twin tragedies of ethnic conflict and tsunami.