Guess what? It doesn’t spoil the child…

THERE’S been a photo circulating the Internet, which seems to be a memo from the Ministry of Education to teachers informing them what kinds of punishments they are not allowed to mete out to students.

Now for a lot of people, especially those from older generations, the list might seem ridiculous. Pretty much all forms of physical punishment are not allowed.

According to the list, you can’t make a student run around a field, stand on a table/chair, stand outside the classroom for too long or even do the “classic” ear squat. “Mental/emotional” punishment such as cutting a student’s hair, embarrassing a student in front of a crowd or “berleter” (nagging) aren’t allowed either.

Universiti Malaya consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer Dr Muhammad Muhsin Ahmad Zahari, however, believes it is a crucial step towards bridging the gap between students and educators.

Some people believe that students these days are being spoiled. What do you think?

Times change. Students have evolved. Their maturity levels are different, and the way they react to punishment is different. So it doesn’t make sense for us to use the same approach we did back in our time.

Physical punishment is simply not an effective way to correct behaviour any more, and it’s not the fault of the student. They are growing up in such a different environment with the Internet and access to so much information.

In that case, what should teachers do?

Teachers might have good intentions to correct the students’ behaviour, but the most important thing is how students perceive the teacher’s actions. If they perceive the teacher’s methods as bad, then you won’t achieve your objective of correcting their behaviour.

Teachers need to be equipped with knowledge on the psychological approaches you can use to remedy bad behaviour.

If teachers persist with physical punishment, how would it affect a student now?

If the students are introverts, they would probably keep (the negativity) to themselves. They probably won’t want to go to school, or they might become unhappy at school.

But if they’re extroverts, the students might project the same physical punishment on other students, or even the teachers.

Do you feel this is a transitional phase?

I think so, yes. Times are changing very quickly, but we have teachers who were trained in the 80s, for example, who would have used physical punishment, and the parents didn’t mind either.

There are so many opinions on this, but like it or not, we have to adjust and re-look at the way we deal with students.

Tell us what you think!

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