PETALING JAYA: Child rights advocates want teachers to adopt holistic approaches without physical force to improve the conduct of students who do not perform their schoolwork, instead of caning such pupils.
They called for problematic children to be engaged with properly to improve their behaviour, with proactive measures to communicate concerns to parents for the betterment of the students.
This followed a Sin Chew Daily report on Friday that a Standard Three student from Johor Bahru was severely caned by a teacher for apparently not bringing a textbook to class.
The Chinese daily reported that the girl’s plight caught public attention after her sister narrated the ordeal on Facebook, together with photographs of the nine-year-old girl’s bruised arm.
The school’s representative interviewed by Sin Chew reportedly admitted that the teacher had not handled the matter properly.
The representative was reported as saying that the student had not handed in her homework since the start of the year, adding that her teachers were unable to reach her parents.
Voice of Children executive director Sharmila Sekaran said instead of punishing the student in such a manner, the teacher should have asked her to explain why she did not bring her books.
“When children do something ‘wrong’ in the classroom, as a teacher, one needs to make them realise that they should not repeat the same offence again.
“Push them to say more on why they did not bring their books to school and what are the reasons for not doing so,” she told FMT.
She added that by having the children queried in such a way, they would become more aware that they should not miss bringing along the necessary books.
Sharmila said although the education ministry had issued a circular clearly stating what offences are appropriate for caning, there is no enforcement against teachers who do not adhere to the guidelines.
“Caning is not for discipline in the 21st century, and there is no evidence to show that it will make any difference to the offenders,” she said.
According to the 2003 circular, teachers need to give a stern warning to students for light offences, such as not bringing schoolbooks, not completing homework or not paying attention in class.
Students will only be caned on their palms and bottoms if they have committed a moderate or serious offence, the circular said.
Prof Mohd Tajuddin Rasdi of UCSI University concurred that there should be a “no caning” policy for students.
“Sorry to say that the circular is outdated. In other countries, schools try to make the children enjoy learning instead of (being subjected to) strict discipline,” he said.
Meanwhile, PS The Children executive director Madelene Yong said there is a need to include child protection protocols in the school system.
She said adults and the community in general need to look after the well-being and protection of children.
She added that if a child’s parents or guardians cannot be reached, then the welfare department should be alerted to visit their house.
Yong asked why the Johor student had been punished without the school authorities finding out what made her not bring her books.
“We may not know what is happening at her home and why her parents are not contactable,” she said.
Yong urged the government to implement the policy espoused by the Asean Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) to end violence against children.
“Malaysia is among the ACWC member nations. Why are we not practising positive implementation?” she said.
Last week, another issue on caning arose when it was reported that students at a Chinese primary school here were caned 12 times each because of alleged late payment of parent-teacher association miscellaneous fees.
Parents’ groups who spoke to FMT said they were shocked that such an incident had happened.