Teachers’ union says yes to caning, education group says no

Former headmaster V Chakaravathy is said to have transformed Setapak High School by not sparing the rod. (File pic)

PETALING JAYA: A teachers’ union and an education lobbyist group have differed over a former “no-nonsense” headmaster’s use of public caning to curb delinquency.

The Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) said caning was not the right way to handle students while the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) said caning was justified in some instances.

They were referring to an FMT report on former headmaster V Chakaravathy’s stint in Setapak High School, which he turned from a notoriously underachieving, gang-riddled disaster into one of Kuala Lumpur’s top performing schools by not sparing the rod.

The report quoted a former student as saying that on her first day at the school in 1982, she saw boys being caned in front of the whole school for delinquency and involvement in gangs.

V Chakaravathy.

She recalled that after six months or so, fewer public canings took place and boys linked to gangs started doing better in class and scoring higher on tests.

PAGE chairman Noor Azimah Rahim said research showed that children who were caned might be psychologically affected, with some turning to violence as adults.

“PAGE does not advocate public caning and neither does the education ministry. The rights of children need to be upheld,” she told FMT.

Harry Tan, secretary-general of NUTP, disagreed. He said Chakaravathy had been able to change the situation in Setapak High, and only caned the boys when it was necessary.

“It is our aim that our teachers are given the liberty to use everything at their disposal to teach their students, including caning if need be,” he said.

“It is our aspiration that our students do well in life and not be a burden on society.

“This is what NUTP seeks to address, so teachers carry out their duties being blind to the colour, religion and socio-economic status of their students and only focus on education.”

Chakaravathy, now 79, served at the Setapak High School from 1981 to 1988. He recently caught public attention when he lambasted the education system at an event attended by Education Minister Maszlee Malik.

A video of the incident recorded by FMT went viral.