1. UNDERSTANDING CORPORAL PUNISHMENT AS A DISCIPLINARY MEASURE
Understanding the Problem
The idea of punishment is intimately related to human conceptions of childhood and education. It is an established fact that childhood is only a 19th century construct. Clichéd popular thinking related to children such as ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’, ‘children are empty vessels’, ‘children need to be moulded’ persist in contemporary thinking of educators and has often served as the guiding principles of established school practices. This finds convergence with the ideas of what formal education aims to achieve.
Within the Indian context, two distinct yet related strands of the idea of education co-exist: the first is to do with the building of character and morals as the most important goal of education; the second, relatively more contemporary in nature is the idea of educating in order to seek adequate means of livelihood and social mobility. While progressive educational discourse associated with the ideas of Gandhi, Tagore, Gijubhai Dewey, Piaget and Vygotsky assert the agency of the child and form a significant part of teacher education courses in India the nucleus of Indian educational practice revolves around the concept of ‘discipline’.
Academic performance – the ultimate goal of formal education, is attempted to be met by
making ‘discipline’ the centre of all school activity. Learning to concentrate, learning to perform in examinations and learning to behave in desirable ways are the key means of achieving this goal. This finds immediate endorsement from the parent community in India where formal quality education for the masses remains a mystified phenomenon. The paradox is in the coexistence of a relatively progressive educational discourse that advocates for the ‘agency’ of the child in her own learning and the preposterous practice of ‘disciplining’ children to ‘perform’ in school and board examinations.
Corporal punishment is an oft-used mechanism to discipline children. The intimate relationship between corporal punishment and discipline is not simply a convention of human thinking; it finds legitimacy via definitional assertions in dictionaries as well. ‘To discipline’ is often stated to mean ‘to punish’.
The idea of ‘disciplining children’ also stems from deep-rooted folk conceptions about children and their relationship with adults. The cultural practice associated with rearing and educating children permeates schooling practices across the country. These are: the hegemonic relationship between adults and children, often manifest in either a culture of patronage towards the young or control through power and the firm belief that education is the ‘effective transmission’ of ‘given knowledge’. Both these have cultural sanction.
Within such a socio-cultural and educational context how would the idea of enforcing ‘rights of children’ through legislation, work?
The voices and rights of children evidently need a platform that children themselves may not be able to create. The NCPCR is an example of creating an appropriate platform to voice the
concern of children, from children’s perspective, by concerned adults. It therefore becomes all the more important for adults who stand up for children to continually question their own
assumptions about children and the taken-for-granted patronizing attitude towards children often camouflaged under the garb of nurturance and protection.
Corporal punishment also needs to be looked at within the larger context of violence and child abuse that plagues the Indian society and human civilisation. Blurring of boundaries between crime and terrorism; between terrorism and the struggle for freedom; between the struggle for human dignity and the increasing complexities of class-caste-gender-community dynamics and the increasing abuse of children, have manifest more blatantly than ever before. The most vulnerable in a society plagued with legitimized violence, are children…whose stifled voices desperately need to be heard. Although systematic research needs to be done to bring substantial evidence to the argument, is there any denying that violence amongst school children within school premises is a stark contemporary reality across the globe?
Discourse on Punishment
The current discourse on punishment amongst teachers and parents is heavily tilted towards
physical punishment rather than mere verbal reprimand. It is also observed that most 12
communication about corporal punishment is camouflaged in a contrived ‘neutral’ discourse. As a 14 year old child remarked “Teachers do not know what to say or do, therefore they beat or threaten to beat.” Is it that teachers are helpless and do not know how to deal with in-discipline and with children’s energy levels?
The issue of punishment is closely associated with the self-image of the teacher as one who
needs to be ‘in control’ in order to be an effective teacher. This idea of control manifests in the popular conception of education which is to ‘socialize’ children in ‘desirable ways’ of ‘sitting’ in a formal class, ‘behaving’ in school, ‘following instructions’ from the teacher, talking only when asked to and finishing tasks on time. A study found this to be the view of many teachers who were asked to express their understanding of child-centered education.
Punishment is often also related to teachers’ orientation towards children. Most teachers are
trained to believe that they need to be judgmental about children and their learning; that they need to be in control. What discipline is, is not clear to many teachers. The unequal power relationships between adults and children further augments the problem. Children internalize cues of authority from school and at home and begin to legitimize violence as a way of life.
The overall vision and culture of a school indicates how children are perceived and treated.
Therefore it is important that strategies adopted must evoke sensitivity in adults to children’s
ways of thinking and perceiving. This should become a major area of focus in all child development courses in pre-service and in-service programmes of teacher education. Listening to children is important for teachers to understand them and feel less angry with the mistakes they make.
2. ANSWERING COMMON DEFENSES OF CORPORAL PUNISHMENT
Corporal punishment is a necessary part of upbringing. Children learn from a
smacking or beating to respect their elders, to distinguish right from wrong, to obey rules and work hard. Without corporal punishment children will be spoilt and undisciplined.
Everyone needs discipline, particularly self-discipline. But corporal punishment is not a form of inculcating discipline. Research has consistently shown that that it impedes the attainment of respect for discipline. It rarely motivates children to act differently, because it does not bring an understanding of what they ought to be doing nor does it offer any kind of reward for being good. The fact that those parents, teachers and others have to repeat corporal punishment for the same misbehaviour by the same child testifies to its ineffectiveness. In the countries where corporal punishment is banned there is no evidence to show that disruption of schools or homes due to children has increased. This indicates that disruptions everywhere are conveniently blamed on children as they are the most vulnerable. The sky does not fall if children cannot be hit.
Research clearly shows that effective control of children’s behaviour does not depend upon
punishment for wrongdoing but on clear and consistent limits that prevent it. Therefore modeling and exhibiting behavioral standards necessarily depends on adults. Nurturing a
child’s behaviour is like growing a fruit. Its quality depends on the inputs. In nurturing a
child these inputs are love, tolerance, motivation and encouragement coupled with ease of
pace to learn or perform.
I was hit as a child and it didn’t do me any harm. On the contrary I wouldn’t
be where I am today if it were not for my parents and teachers physically punishing me.
Corporal punishment alters and destroys self perception of the victim. People usually hit children because they themselves were hit as children: children learn from and identify with
their parents and teachers. It is pointless to blame the previous generation for hitting children because they were acting in accordance with the general culture of the time; nor
should bonds of love and gratitude which children have towards their elders be denied. However times change and so also social attitudes with them. There are plenty of examples
of individuals who were not hit as children becoming great successes, and even more examples of individuals who were hit failing to fulfill their potential in later life.
Parents often hit out of anger and frustration – children, like adults, can be very wearisome
and difficult – and because they have no knowledge of alternative methods. Parents who try
alternatives report success.
I’d bet that if you asked children how they’d like to be punished they would
choose corporal punishment.
Children have a natural tendency to defend their childhood. If the influential adults in a
child’s home and school life use corporal punishment, it is not surprising that some children
may at first defend its use. You don’t want to think badly of your parents. The child learns
that he or she deserves a beating and that it is a necessary part of growing up. But attitudes
will change if children are enabled to reflect on how they felt when punished and are introduced to positive approaches to discipline built on respect, rewards and companionship.
Parents’ right to bring up children as they see fit should only be challenged in
extreme cases, like child abuse.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child replaces the concept of parents’ rights with
“parental responsibilities”, including the right and responsibility to protect the rights of children themselves. The assertion of children’s rights seems an unwarranted intrusion to
people accustomed to thinking of children as parents’ possessions, but children are now recognized as individuals who are entitled to the protection of human rights standards along
with everyone else. Other forms of inter-personal violence within families – including wifebeating – are already subject to social control and are unlawful in almost every society. It is quite wrong that children, the smallest and most vulnerable of people, should have had to
wait until last for protection.
There is a big difference between a vicious beating and the little smacks that
parents often give their children. These are not dangerous, do not cause real
pain and cannot be called abuse. Why should these be outlawed?
Firstly, the little smack does cause a child pain and is intended to do so. And sometimes
“minor” corporal punishment causes unexpected injury. Hitting children is dangerous because children are small and fragile (much corporal punishment is targeted at babies and
very young children). Ruptured eardrums, brain damage, and injuries or death from falls are
the recorded consequences of “harmless smacks”. People would no longer get away with
condemning violence to women, by defending “little slaps”.
I only smack my children for safety – for their own sake they must learn about
If a child is crawling towards a hot oven, or running into a dangerous road (likely to cause
risk to them) of course you must use physical means to protect them – grab them, pick them up, show them and tell them about the danger. But if you raise your hand to hit them, you
are confusing them– by hurting the child yourself, you are confusing the message the child
gets about the danger, and distracting their attention from the lesson you want them to learn.
Many parents in our country are bringing up their children in desperate conditions, and teachers and other staff are under stress from overcrowding
and lack of resources. Forbidding corporal punishment would add to that stress and should await improvement of these conditions.
This argument is a tacit admission of an obvious truth: corporal punishment is often an outlet for pent-up feelings of adults rather than an attempt to educate children. In many
homes and institutions adults urgently need more resources and support, but however frustrating adults’ problems may be, venting them on children cannot be justified. Children’s
protection should not wait on improvements in the adult world, any more than protection of
women from violence should have had to await improvement to men’s conditions. In any
case hitting children is an ineffective stress-reliever. Adults who hit out in temper often feel
guilty; those who hit in cold blood find they have angry and resentful children to cope with.
Corporal punishment is a part of my culture and child-rearing tradition.
Attempts to outlaw it are discriminatory.
No culture can be said to “own” corporal punishment. All cultures have a responsibility to
disown it, as they have disowned other breaches of human rights which formed a part of
their tradition. There are movements to end corporal punishment of children now in all continents of the world.
If corporal punishment of children is outlawed or criminalized, this will result
in outrageous judicial or disciplinary intervention. Children will be encouraged to act like police and spies in the home or school.
In relation to the family home, laws banning corporal punishment are about setting standards and changing attitudes, not prosecuting parents or dividing families. Welfare services recognise that children’s needs are best met within their families, so it is important to provide parents with help and support, rather than impose punitive interventions.
Over five million European children are already protected from all physical punishment in
their home as well as in institutions. The reforms have not led to a rush of children taking
their parents to court over physical punishment, and numbers of children taken into care in
Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries are low and reducing.
I bet if there was a poll on the issue a huge majority would support retaining
corporal punishment. This country is a democracy but there is no democratic
support for ending corporal punishment.
Representative democracies are not run by popular referenda. This means that the elected
politicians will, when drawing up new laws and the constitution, make a number of unpopular decisions, based on informed arguments. Proposals to end the physical unishment of children never enjoy popular support before legal or administrative steps are
taken to outlaw it. However public attitudes rapidly change once such steps are taken and
alternative methods of disciplining are made widely known.
3. LEGAL BASIS FOR STATE INTERVENTION ON CORPORAL PUNISHMENT
As mentioned before there is a growing appreciation for addressing the issue of corporal punishment as an act of violence. There are many provisions through which the State can
intervene on banning corporal punishment.
Constitution of India
Art. 21: The interpretation of ‘right to life’ has been expanded to mean:
1. A life of dignity.
2. A life which ensures freedom from arbitrary and despotic control, torture and terror.
3. Life protected against cruelty, physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, exploitation
including sexual abuse.
Art 39. The State shall in particular direct its policy towards securing-.
e. that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age and strength;
f. that children are given the opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against
exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2006
Section 23: Whoever, having the actual charge of or control over, a juvenile or the child, assaults, abandons, exposes or willfully neglects the juvenile or causes or procures him/her to be assaulted, abandoned, exposed or neglected in a manner likely to cause such juvenile or the
child unnecessarily mental or physical suffering, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or fine, or with both.
This section has no exceptions to exempt parents or teachers. Though it is intended to punish cruelty by those in authority, it equally applies to parents and teachers. The whole purpose of the Juvenile Justice Act 2000 is to translate the objectives and rights enshrined in Convention on Child Rights, which include separation of juveniles in conflict with law from ordinary judicial proceedings to avoid corporal punishment.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules, 2007
The Model Rules also enunciate ‘fundamental principles’ of care and protection with regard to the juvenile justice process and institutional care in Juvenile Homes which explicitly prohibit corporal punishment and maltreatment of children within the juvenile institutional system and lay out duties for the State for protection of children from abuse within the juvenile system:
Chapter II: Principle of dignity and worth
(a) Treatment that is consistent with the child’s sense of dignity and worth is a fundamental
principle of juvenile justice…..Respect of dignity includes not being humiliated, personal identity, boundaries and space being respected, not being labeled and stigmatized, being
offered information and choices and not being blamed for their acts.”
Chapter VI: Principle of Safety (no harm, no abuse, no neglect, no exploitation and no maltreatment)
(a) At all stages, from the initial contact till such time he remains in contact with the care and
protection system, and thereafter, the juvenile or child or juvenile in conflict with law shall
not be subjected to any harm, abuse, neglect, maltreatment, corporal punishment or solitary
or otherwise any confinement in jails and extreme care shall be taken to avoid any harm to
the sensitivity of the juvenile or the child,
(b) The State has a greater responsibility for ensuring safety of every child in its care and
protection, without restoring to restrictive measures and processes in the name of care and
Rules 46 and 60 further specify the juvenile home as an ‘abuse free’ environment and outline
mechanisms to ensure the creation of such an environment:
Rule 46: (3) the environment in an institution shall be free from abuse, allowing juvenile or
children to cope with their situation and regain their confidence.
Rule 60: (1) Every institution shall have systems of ensuring that there is no abuse, neglect and maltreatment and this shall include the staff being aware of what constitutes abuse, neglect and maltreatment as well as early indicators of abuse, neglect and maltreatment and how to respond to these.
The National Policy on Education (1986)
Para 5.6 Child-Centered Approach: A warm, welcoming and encouraging approach, in which all concerned share solicitude for the needs of the child, is the best motivation for the child to
attend school and learn. A child-centered and activity-based process of learning should be
adopted at the primary stage. First generation learners should be allowed to set their own pace and be given supplementary remedial instruction. As the child grows, the component of
cognitive learning will be increased and skills organised through practice. The Policy of nondetention at the primary stage will be retained, making evaluation as disaggregated as feasible. Corporal Punishment will be firmly excluded from the educational system and school timings as well as vacations adjusted to the convenience of children.
The National Charter for Children (2003)
This charter acknowledges the principles and provisions of the Constitution and of the 1974
National Policy as comprising its guiding frame, and includes ‘neglect’ and ‘degrading treatment’ in its listing of conditions from which children must be protected. The charter
states its intent to ‘secure for every child its right to be a child and enjoy a healthy and happy
childhood… and to awaken the conscience of the community in the wider societal context to
protect children from all forms of abuse…’ and asserts that ‘the state and community shall
undertake all possible measures to ensure and protect the survival, life and liberty of all
Article 7 (f): The State shall ensure that school discipline and matters related thereto do not
result in physical, mental, psychological harm or trauma to the child.
National Plan of Action for Children 2005 (NPA)
One of the core objectives of the NPA is “to protect all children against neglect, maltreatment, injury, trafficking, sexual and physical abuse of all kinds, pornography, corporal punishment, torture, exploitation, violence, and degrading treatment”.
United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child, 1989 (India acceded to this convention in 1992)
In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare
institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
2. States Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary for his or her well-being, taking into account the rights and duties of his or her parents, legal guardians, or other individuals legally responsible for him or her, and, to this end, shall take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures.
3. States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or protection of children shall conform to the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in the areas of safety, health, in the number and suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision.
1. States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational
measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse,
neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.
2. Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child and for those
who have the care of the child, as well as for other forms of prevention and for identification,
reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment
described heretofore, and, as appropriate, for judicial involvement.
2. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity and in conformity with the present Convention.
States Parties shall ensure that:
(a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or
punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release
shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age;
1. States Parties recognize the right of every child alleged as, accused of, or recognized as having infringed the penal law to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child’s sense of dignity and worth, which reinforces the child’s respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others and which takes into account the child’s age and the desirability of promoting the child’s reintegration and the child’s assuming a constructive
role in society.
States Parties undertake to make the principles and provisions of the Convention widely known, by appropriate and active means, to adults and children alike.
4. WHAT CAN WE DO?
There are several stakeholders in the present situation and the roles and responsibilities of each towards securing children’s rights have to be recognized. The important stake-holders are the teachers, the children, the parents and the community, the education departments and the State. If initiative is taken at each level then we would help deliver children from this abhorring practice.
4.1.TEACHERS and USE OF POSITIVE DISCIPLINE
The idea of ‘positive discipline’ techniques concentrate on reinforcing positive behavior of
children. Durrant in her study states that ‘positive discipline’ is based on the idea that children are born without knowing what we expect of them. Positive discipline is considered to be a nonviolent approach which respects the inherent dignity of the child, and seeks to find solutions based on child’s evolving capacities. It is an approach to teaching that gives them information and supports their growth based on their age specific needs. 11
What positive discipline is:
Positive discipline is about long-term solutions that develop your child’s own self-
Positive discipline is clear communication of your expectations, rules and limits.
Positive discipline is about building a mutually respectful relationship with your child.
Positive discipline is about teaching your child life-long skills.
Positive discipline is about increasing your child’s competence and confidence to handle
Positive discipline is about teaching courtesy, non-violence, empathy, self-respect, human
rights and respect for others.
What positive discipline is not:
Positive discipline is not permissive parenting.
Positive discipline is not letting your child do whatever he wants.
Positive discipline is not about having no rules, limits or expectations.
Positive discipline is not about short-term reactions or alternative punishments to
Slapping and hitting.
Children’s Voices in the Classroom:
Children have to be encouraged to respect the need to maintain class decorum. This can be done by firstly involving children in making the rules of class-behaviour and discipline. If children feel they made the rules, then they are more likely to follow it. Once agreed upon, these rules should be well publicized amongst students, teachers and parents as well.
The participation of children in maintaining class-discipline is well ensured through the classmonitor system. Monitors are asked to notify the teacher about those children who are ‘making a noise’ and in many instances the monitors are given sticks to hit other children. This system very successfully pits one child against the rest of the class, dividing the class, and fuelling discontent towards the class-monitor. Such practices of delegated authority should be discouraged.
Resolution of class-disputes should also involve children. A good example followed in CIE Basic School, Delhi is the organization of ‘bal-adalat’. This class-room practice starts with stating the issue of dispute before the class. Then the involved parties (children) present their arguments justifying their actions. After discussing the issue, the entire class decides the directions to give. The entire exercise is facilitated by the teacher.
All India Teachers Forum for Child Rights:
In Andhra Pradesh, an active forum of over teachers has begun a campaign on abolishing
corporal punishment. The members of this Forum organize meetings in various cities with other teachers and discuss the problems that teachers face in teaching, the issue of corporal
punishment and the reasons for abolishing it. In one of the many instances the teachers of a
particular school were so inspired, that all the teachers of the school took their sticks and walked in a procession outside the school, and buried the hitting sticks, returned to school and declared that from that day forth, the would not hit their children. Some other converts have said, “Since I stopped hitting children in my class, one drop-out child has returned to school”. The Forum is successfully reaching out to teachers and helping them grapple with discipline and teaching problems. This peer-to-peer learning is proving to be a very effective way of sensitizing teachers and school managements about the harmful effects of corporal punishment and the immediate need to stop it.
4.2. COMMUNITY INTEREST
The parents and local community need to take an interest in schools. The parent-teacher
meetings need to be convened regularly to help the teacher and the parent to understand the
child’s problems and make a joint effort at helping the child.
Role of parents:
Parents are in most cases the first adults to whom a child takes his/her problems. Their
participation in their child’s development should be recognized and facilitated and they should be empowered with knowledge of their child’s rights. The ill-effects of all kinds and degrees of corporal punishment should be explained to them so that they can respond to their child effectively. It is necessary to ensure that children are not victimized due to ‘silent’ parents who do not ask questions unless directly affected. In the process child continues to suffer the illeffects of such inaction on the part of the parents, unless such noticeable harm is suffered by the child as makes all else sit up at once. By then invariably, it is too late for the child.
All schools may be asked to organize an orientation meeting of staff and parents of children at the beginning of the academic session. The participants of the meetings may include local NGO, Block Education Officer and District Education Officer also. The participants shall be sensitized on the ‘rights of children’ to respect, care, health, and an education free from fear. The parents opinion should be actively sought.
A notice-board in every school must display the names and contact details of the PTA members, BDO and DEO. PTAs to be encouraged to act immediately on complaints by children before further injury is caused
Parents and children are to be encouraged to speak out against corporal punishment without
fear that it would have adverse effect on the children’s participation in school. Every school shall have a suggestion box which is accessible to everyone- students, teachers, parents and school staff. This box should be opened regularly. The Karnataka School Development Management Committees (SDMC) have a detailed redressal mechanism which could be emulated by all. Therein the President of the SDMC receives the complaints and forwards them unopened, to a higher body which is the Civic Amenities Committee (CAC) in their case. In cases of child abuse the CAC constitutes a 3-member enquiry team of which 2 are women and one should be from an NGO not working in that school. This team will conduct investigation and submit report within 15 days, in which the team can recommend that the accused be warned, or suspended, or dismissed. In all cases the accused person shall be asked not to discharge his/her duties pending enquiry.
A community social audit of the school will increase awareness amongst the community about the school practices, regularity of teacher attendance and teaching, condition of school
amenities, etc. Knowledge being the first step towards action, this will also build ownership
amongst the community for the school.
4.3. EDUCATION DEPARTMENT
Since corporal punishment is tied to the larger context and concern of the prevalence of violence in society, popular constructs of childhood and education, it is important to bring Teacher Education Institutes into the fold of institutionalized mechanisms. This would involve addressing teachers through both the pre-service and in-service teacher education programmes.
Pre-service Courses of Teacher Education
These would include courses offered by DIETs and CTEs, University Departments offering
Bachelor’s Degree in Teacher Education, other certificate and diploma courses, including private institutions. The following suggestions are made:
NCTE in its norms for Teacher Education Programmes should stipulate a mandatory provision to include and integrate the study of children, their development and learning and the interdisciplinary study of the construct of childhood. More specifically Teacher Education courses should include the following:
Constructs of discipline, classroom organization and management and the study of
children’s’ learning need to be integrated in courses of child development. This should
include a critical examination of existing practices of discipline in schools.
A clear shift needs to be made from the current focus on courses of Educational Psychology to courses on Child Development and Learning. The current courses focus on models of instruction and learning theories rather than the developing child. The child has to be brought into the centre in teacher education programmes so that prospective teachers engage with the idea of teaching specific children rather than the application of theories of learning and instruction keeping in mind an abstract universalized notion of a child.
Courses of Child Development should integrate separate units of study on the ‘Rights of
Children’ including Education as a Fundamental Right, debates and concerns.
Child Development courses should also integrate the study of the construct of childhood
especially within the Indian context, rather than propagate ‘abstract, universalistic, textbook constructions of ‘who a child is?’ This will help teachers to view children within the context of the larger socio-cultural, economic and political milieu.
Child Development and Foundation courses in Education should integrate the study of
popular notions and assumptions about children and education so that prospective teachers get the opportunity to critically examine their own thinking about children and education.
Child development courses should also include training on key forms of learning disabilities such as ‘dyslexia’ and remedial classroom and out of class responses which help teachers develop tailored classroom practices and effective parent / teacher conferencing
Courses need to address the issue of why children fail or are unable to perform. In
traditional teacher training the dominant pattern is to leave the onus of learning to children. There exists a major gap in teachers’ perception of their role in enabling children to learn. The current system absolves the teacher of any responsibilities towards learning. This orientation can change only through a concerted focus on courses that engage teachers with issues of children’s thinking and learning and error analysis.
Courses in Teacher Education should have mandatory projects and field-based assignments to enable a more relevant discourse rather than only abstract theory. This will enable the use of theory to critically examine social reality and personal conceptions and social constructions.
In-service Teacher Education
All in-service programmes need to have a dedicated focus on issues of child rights, discipline and corporal punishment. Need to create forums for teachers to discuss issues related with discipline and the difficulties teachers face in dealing with diverse and unpredictable behaviour patterns
Teachers need to engage with issues of why children are beaten and when. They need to be engaged through the workshop mode on how concerns of classroom organization and
management and children’s learning can be handled using various kinds of techniques of drama and self-development, rather than an easy resort to punishment. Workshops need to be organized with systematic inputs from psychiatrists, child psychologists, pediatricians and counselors to sensitize teachers on the impact of corporal punishment on children and the role of the teachers in enabling a non-threatening learning environment in schools.
Issues with regard to redressal mechanisms for children and peer pressure to restrain the use of corporal punishment should be the centre of discussions during in-service programmes.
A major divide between the socio-economic and cultural background of teachers and
children in most state schools is a key factor in perpetuating the problem of corporal punishment. It would be strategic to develop and disseminate short films/video clips on the vulnerability of children and the responsibility of adults. This could be done through Doordarshan and Edusat programmes. The community radio can also be used for this purpose.
This is likely to sensitize teachers. The strategy should be to appeal to adults (including
teachers) in their capacity as parents…in a sense urging them to start thinking about the
deleterious effects of physical punishment and their role in combating it. Teachers and parents need to understand that punishment amounts to disrespecting a child in front of all. The dignity of the child is at stake when teachers punish. This will also address the sanction that parents often give in justifying child beating for academic non-performance and matters of discipline.
Mechanisms can be evolved with teachers to actively discourage violence amongst children in school settings. For instance, could we have a set of rules for children in class developed by children along with the teachers?
The system of monitors in classes, chosen from among the students needs to be a major
focus of discussion with the aim to completely abolish the “use” of monitors to punish
children by beating them. Currently class monitors substitute teachers in maintaining
discipline by threatening and often resorting to physical beating. This has particularly led to a process of legitimizing violence amongst children, while absolving the teacher.
The introduction of the concept of a Home Room (zero period) period everyday and a Home Room Teacher (HRT) who encourages children to share and express their experiences and feelings openly needs to be put in place.
Principles of ‘restorative justice’ which focus on collaborative problem solving, and self
reflective, restorative approach to discipline are now being utilised across the world in educational and juvenile justice settings. In-service training should equip teachers to use conferencing and mediation techniques incorporating these principles for use with students, peers and parents.
There is need to include school counselors (wherever available), school principals and heads in organizing concerted workshops on the issue of corporal punishment, classroom management and discipline in schools.
In-service training should equip teachers to be able to identify behavioural and other signs of child abuse and appropriate utilisation of confidential reporting and referral processes to school counselors, authorities etc.
In establishing appropriate institutional mechanisms, which deter corporal punishment, other systemic drivers, which create pressures for negative behaviours and violation of child
rights also need to be addressed. One such key driver is performance measurement of teachers. Performance measurement systems which are only focused on the single dimension of reported examination marks of students (as an indicator of performance of both teachers and students) rather than a multi-dimensional assessment which includes total student development and classroom development (teacher’s ability and efforts to create positive and non-violence based classroom learning cultures) do not reinforce positive behaviours and create pressures for negative behaviours.
Re-orientation of teacher performance measurement systems could include:
Introduction of 360 degree evaluations which include peer review evaluations and student evaluations of teachers (through processes which protect confidentiality and ensure constructive feedback such as communication of evaluation results on ‘aggregate’ basis etc)
Reward positive behaviours and link promotions, salary increases to multi-dimensional
performance attributes including achievement of standards for ‘peaceful, positive learning’ classrooms by teachers
Other In-School Mechanisms:
Maintenenance of register by Department of Education of violators with regard to practice of corporal punishment to enforce range of child protection measures in addition to the relevant legal actions. This would include non-renewal of teacher appointments for serious/repeat offenders or subsequent school placements only with appropriate counseling processes/probationary measures etc.
Consider establishment of mandatory in-school or ‘visiting’ psycho-social and career guidance counseling services to provide independent, professional outlet for both teachers and students in addressing major areas of stress and classroom conflict.
4.4. JUVENILE HOMES
Institutional standards of care in Juvenile Homes which specifically incorporate the following key measures to address the conditions supporting the prevalence of child abuse corporal punishment in Homes need to be implemented as a priority:
Governance and Monitoring
A standardised discipline code of conduct should be developed for all child carers in Homes and should be reinforced through on-going training and linkages with performance measurement of staff.
Management Committees must be established in all Homes to ensure appropriate governance, oversight and transparency of Homes and together with civil society ensure a focus on prevention of child abuse.
Mandatory development of individualised care plans, which incorporate input from social workers, probation officers, carers, parents and children regarding stress factors, trauma and behavioural linkages and feed into individual remedial/rehabilitative measures should be regularly monitored / appropriately shared with child carers.
Ethical enquiry processes regarding abuse must be established for the protection of both
children and staff and prevention of exploitation
Configuration of Homes to allow small group care with each unit having primary care giver to promote family based care environment versus regimental correctional facility based, dormitory style arrangements.
Parent and guardian involvement in Homes must be established as a cornerstone of Juvenile Homes with regular parent / guardian visitation, phone communication, home visits and involvement of parents / guardians in care plan development and participation in joint parent/child counseling.
All Juvenile Homes should establish a complaint mechanism for children where anonymity is preserved. A complaint box, (appropriately placed for both confidential child and parent complaints) should be accessed regularly by the Child Welfare Committee and Juvenile Justice Board members, who follow established redressal processes for complaint action management and forward copies of complaints and periodic action taken reports to the State CPCR and NCPCR.
Assessment of Home specific segregation of children requirements to minimise risk factors for abuse
Register of child abuse offenders in institutions to by maintained by Social Welfare/ Social justice departments to ensure barring from future employment in child facing roles.
Child Rights Clubs, Bal Sabhas or Children’s Committees must be established in every
Juvenile Home to provide children with an opportunity to learn about their rights and responsibilities, develop mediation skills and participate in the operation of the Homes.
Regular on-site training for child facing staff and carers including child rights, childcare and development, special needs and referral processes.
All institutions should have mandatory in-house or access to professional counseling
resources with regular individual and group level counseling services provision in Homes to handle emotional, socialisation and disciplinary problems.
Counselors, psychologists and medical staff should ensure that they are alert to signs of
physical /mental abuse during check-ups and counseling sessions and refer concerns to
CWC and JJB
All Homes should have access to dedicated, specialised rehabilitative resources and facilities for children with special needs including mandatory access to de-addiction centres.
5 . Institutional Mechanisms
Schools are identified as the main site where corporal punishment has assumed endemic
proportions. Authoritative relationships between teachers and children, legitimized by the
existing system of education are an extension of the adult hegemony over the child. Teachers
and heads of schools work together to discipline children with the aim to cultivate desirable
behaviour, inculcate morals and values and ensure academic performance – the unstated yet
widely practiced aim of schooling.
Common sites of corporal punishment are schools, homes, destitute and juvenile homes,
crèches, day care centres, aganwadis and balwadis, work places of children and non-formal
centres of education. An appropriate institutional framework ought to create mechanisms
for addressing the variety of adults (parents, care takers, balwadi workers) engaged with
children apart from teachers and a redressal mechanism for children who are victims of
5.1. Reaching Out to Children:
Universalising the Child Help Line Service – 1098 – in all States and districts for children
to approach in the event of any measure of corporal punishment on the individual child or peer. This should be established as a telephone line and a PO Box number, both of which should have an identical number that would be easy for children to recall. The telephone service should be available toll-free from all telephone lines. This number should be widely displayed by the State Departments of Education in schools, institutes of education and offices and through an official communiqué to every concerned institution. Written announcements to this effect should be made at the time of admissions in all schools. The community radio can also be used for this purpose.
Developing sensitivity towards children and exercising restraint in reprimanding children resorting to physical beating, can be achieved through a short daily activity during school assembly. This can take the form of singing select songs that express sensitivity towards children, reading news about children, celebrating an achievement of children or children reading a piece of poetry or thoughts.
5.2 Provision in School Textbooks
A precise statement on the ‘rights of the child’ along with the provision of a Child Help
Line Service should be printed on the first page of every textbook that children use from Class IV onwards, so that it is easily accessible to any child.
Social Science and Language textbooks can have a chapter devoted to the issue with
available information on redressal mechanisms.
- Advocacy against Corporal Punishment
Social advertising should be led by NCPCR in collaboration with NCERT, MHRD and
State Education Departments.
Institute annual events around this theme to be followed up with conventions and seminars amongst teachers/parents and institutes of teacher education such as BEd
colleges and DIETs. Schools and teachers can be selected for giving awards for creating alternative methods of disciplining children.
5.3 School-Society Watch
To support the mechanism for redressal available for children and to combat the problem amongst teachers and other adults, a dedicated group of young journalists can be established whose job would be to investigate and follow up reported cases of corporal punishment.
This group of journalists should be from within the print and multi-media.
A dedicated time on select TV channels can also be allocated for the reporting of such
investigated cases. This will act as a society-watch mechanism that deters teachers and other adults from indulging in the physical beating of children.
This mechanism can be suitably linked to available academic Research
Institutions/NGOs/ University Departments (Education, Social Sciences, Social Work, Women’s Studies) that can maintain a documentation of cases with critical reflections and commentary. Documents of this kind can be disseminated for use by researchers as well as for purposes of training during pre-service and in-service programmes of teacher education.
6. Campaign and Advocacy
The multi media package may consist of an album of multi-coloured illustrations in the form
of exemplar ideas for posters, charts, calendars, advertisements, drawings, cartoons, comics,
quizzes, with catchy phrases, slogans, quotations as well as some audio video spots for conveying messages against corporal punishment. A dummy album may be got prepared by
an advertising agency and the ideas for preparing posters, charts, hoardings, calendars etc.
can be drawn from that album. The ideas may be woven around.
1. Raising consciousness of parents and teachers about self defeating and negative
consequences of corporal punishment and futility of its use.
2. Enabling reflection on, “use of corporal punishment as a deterrent” and looking for
alternative ways of handling situations.
3. Advocating the need for refrain and management of anger, acts of violence, verbal
aggression in day to day life as children emulate the adults and ultimately learn violence
as a tool to control situations.
7. Guidelines issued by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights on Banning corporal punishment
Since the time schools have reopened this academic session, there have been news items on the ghastly violence on children in schools. For example in Rajasthan the report was on the death of a student two days after the school teacher beat him up; in Andhra Pradesh the report was on how a school teacher subjected her students to electric shock, with full support and even justification given by the school head master. These are not isolated instances but manifestations of a culture of violence and insensitivity to children and their rights.
Children due to fear are often silent and submit to violence without questioning. They sometimes show signals of deep hurt in their behavior but this goes unnoticed, perpetuating further violence on them.
Corporal punishment involves, rapping on the knuckles, running on the school ground, kneeling down for hours, standing up for long hours, sitting like a chair, and beaten with a scale, pinched and slapped, child sexual abuse, torture, locking up children alone in classrooms, ‘electric shock’ and all other acts leading to insult, humiliation, physical and mental injury, and even death. It is being noticed that corporal punishment in schools both government as well as private is deeply ingrained as a tool to discipline children and as a normal action. All forms of corporal punishment are a fundamental breach of human rights. A slap is as detrimental to the child’s right as grievous injury. Indeed there are no gradations since it must be seen that condoning so called ‘small acts’ actually lead to gross violations. It is also legally impermissible. The Supreme Court has banned corporal punishment for children on December 1 2000 when it directed the State to ensure “that children are not subjected to corporal punishment in schools and they receive education in an environment of freedom and dignity, free from fear”. Children are as human and sensitive as adults are, if not more. They need to be secure with a caring atmosphere. Practising non-violence as a highest form of culture begins with seeing children as children. It is necessary for adults to behave with them in a manner that they are not subject to violence and hurt of any kind. In a way fostering such a culture will develop adults as responsible adults who would in turn be vigilant and question those that are breaking the norms of respecting childhood.
It is in this context, that the onus of responsibility in safeguarding children from punishment lies with the schools teachers, education administration at all levels as well as all those responsible for management equally. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights directs the education departments of all the States to ensure the following:
1. All children are to be informed through campaigns and publicity drives that they have a right to speak against corporal punishment and bring it to the notice of the authorities. They must be given confidence to make complaints and not accept punishment as a ‘normal’ activity of the school.
2. Every school, including hostels, JJ Homes, shelter homes and other public institutions meant for children must have a forum where children can express their views. Such institutions could take the help of an NGO for facilitating such an exercise.
3. Further a box where children can drop their complaints, even if anonymous has to be provided for in each school.
4. There has to be a monthly meeting of the PTAs or any other body such as the SEC/VEC to review the complaints and take action.
5. The PTAs are to be encouraged to act immediately on any complaints made by children without postponement of the issue and wait for a more grave injury to be caused. In other words the PTAs need not use their discretion to decide on the grievousness of the complaint.
6. Parents as well as children are to be empowered to speak out against corporal punishment without any fear that it would have adverse effect on children’s participation in schools.
7. The education department at all levels-block, district and State are to establish procedures for reviewing the responses to the complaints of children and monitoring the action taken on the same suffering from some contagious disease. He is tense and anxious in case the goats are to die, what then would become of him? His brother would not give him food and he could not hope to do any other work.
Source: “Protection of children against corporal punishment in schools and institutions” prepared by NCPCR.