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School CP - January 2006

Corpun file 17271

Channel News Asia, Singapore, 26 January 2006

Schools left to decide on students' discipline: Education Ministry

By Valarie Tan
Channel NewsAsia

Education Ministry

SINGAPORE : Should caning in school be carried out in view of all students - even in a mixed school?

A recent caning incident at Pasir Ris Secondary School had parents and students voicing their concern.

Radin Sofrafeelah, Secondary 1 Student, said: "I saw one boy who was beaten with a cane, a long cane and I feel really sad, because it was shown in front of everyone. I was scared. Really, really scared. Because I can feel it in my butt also."

Yeo Lin Xun, Secondary 5 Student, said: "I know the person who got caned. Maybe it's too harsh a punishment, it's embarrassing, but it didn't really work for my friend. "

Dahlia Putri, Secondary 3 Student, said: "That's all part of the school - the need to shape them into good people. And we also need to teach them a lesson - not to create that offence again."

Some parents were, however, surprised at the public manner of the corporal punishment.

Mdm Habibah, Parent, said: "It disciplines the child. But it also shames him in front of his friends and schoolmates."

Mdm Lena Rahmat, Parent, said: "My daughter described it to me. I have no mood to have my lunch, I feel so sad. Then I ask her how she felt? Scared and very sad."

Mdm Lena, 50, has two daughters studying at Pasir Ris Secondary School.

A social worker, Lena thinks public caning takes away a child's self-worth and traumatises those who witnessed it.

Mdm Lena said: "There are some students who really need discipline but I hope they do it in the office like many other schools now. I know they do have to cane, but please do it in the office because these are mixed schools, there are children who are very sentimental, especially girls."

Madam Lena also suggests that school punishment can take other forms.

"I guess there's a better way of doing things, like community work. They can help doing things for the community - perhaps it will bond them better with the community and they would understand things better," she said.

In an email response to Channel NewsAsia, the principal of Pasir Ris Secondary School said public caning is used as a last resort and is reserved for wilful and repeat serious offences like vandalism and causing hurt on purpose.

Parents are informed, and pre- and post-counselling sessions are arranged for the student involved.

One to six strokes of a light cane, on palms or buttocks over clothes and nowhere else - these are just some of Education Ministry's guidelines on corporal punishment.

Others include allowing only the principal or a delegated senior staff member to carry out the punishment at a venue determined by the principal.

A Ministry spokesman says as each case of a recalcitrant student has to be judged in context, it's up to the school to decide on the approaches that best meet its needs. - CNA/de

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