Corporal punishment still commonly used in schools

HARD KNOCKS::While fewer teachers flog students, the vast majority of schools use punishments such as stress postures, and many teachers employ abusive language

Staff writer, with CNA

Thu, Nov 22, 2012 - Page 4

Corporal punishment is still imposed in most elementary and junior-high schools around the nation, an executive of the Humanistic Education Foundation in Taipei said on Tuesday, citing the results of a survey.

In the poll conducted by the foundation in September and last month, only 4.65 percent of junior-high school students said they had never seen corporal punishment meted out by teachers at their schools, foundation executive director Joanna Feng (馮喬蘭) said.

In elementary schools, the figure was 10.92 percent, she added.

The survey defined corporal punishment as spanking, making students stand still for a certain period of time, making students maintain a certain position for a period of time and having students perform certain actions.

The poll indicates that corporal punishment is used as a way of disciplining students in about 90 percent of elementary and junior-high schools in Taiwan, Feng said.

Although fewer and fewer teachers are resorting to floggings, punishments in schools often include asking students to stand still, squat with their hands raised and run laps around the playground, she said.

Apart from physical punishment, “violent language, which can be far more horrifying than physical violence,” is often used, said Feng, an advocate of the abolition of corporal punishment in schools.

Unfortunately, insulting words like “stupid, idiot, scum and loser,” which attack a person’s character, are still being used by teachers in classrooms, she said.

The survey also showed that about 40 percent of students in junior-high schools and 70 percent in elementary schools have been deprived of a break between classes as a form of discipline, Feng said.

A short break of about 10 minutes between classes is a basic right of students, who need time to relax and go to the bathroom, she said.

“This right should not be arbitrarily removed,” she said.

The foundation urged the Ministry of Education to ensure that its policy of banning corporal punishment in schools is carried out and to discipline teachers who do not comply.

In response, Yang Chih-chung (楊志忠), head of the ministry’s Student Affairs Committee, said teachers who use corporal punishment in schools could be prosecuted or given a demerit.

A total of 1,112 elementary-school students and 1,112 junior-high school students in 22 counties and cities in Taiwan were interviewed in the survey. It had a confidence level of 95 percent and a margin of error of 3 percentage points, according to the foundation, which is dedicated to the development of human-centered education in Taiwan.