The Star: Empower Teachers to Discipline Students


It took too weeks, but here it is… And I almost blogged it independent of the papers yesterday! (Goes to show about patience…)

I do suggest reading my full original version, complete with emphasis, below the Star’s version.

This one’s for my Cikgu Anne!

(Some responses to my letter have appeared.)

—————————–

From The Star Opinion 14 Feb 2008:

    BringBackCaneStar1    BringBackCaneStar2    BringBackCaneStar3

Empower teachers to discipline students

BRING back the cane and give the power back to the teacher to use the cane!

What I am calling for may seem backward, unenlightened and downright draconic. But let’s be realistic here.

When the classroom is full of 40 shouting, laughing, screaming, playing, sulking students who want to do anything but study, how is a teacher to restore order?

Shout louder than the students? Make them stand on their chairs (and they will just continue talking to their friends)? Threaten them with a few measly demerit points? Or maybe the teacher should try to intellectually persuade the rowdy students on the necessity of a good education?

After trying in vain to get the attention of the students, the pragmatic teacher will simply surrender to reality and instead teach the few students who are willing to learn.

That is, if anything could be taught within the maelstrom of distraction and chaos.

And if, by some merciful miracle, the class finally quietens down, the teacher would still have to compete against the tremendous noise from the classes next door.

Teachers in today’s schools have all the burden but none of the authority. We place huge expectations on teachers to handle a class full of unwilling students, yet tie their hands with unrealistic rules of conduct.

Can you imagine our police force trying to maintain law and order without firearms, handcuffs or powers of arrest and every encounter they have with the public or criminals is met with lawsuits and threats of physical violence? This is exactly what we have done to our school teachers!

I contend that teachers must be provided with a symbol of authority that the students understand, respect and fear. The cane fits this role perfectly. In fact, it has no purpose other than to instil discipline and maintain order!

Even a long wooden ruler would be suitable to encourage the students to comply with the teacher’s demands. But the teacher must be given the authority to use that cane or ruler to punish within predetermined guidelines.

Anyone who is old enough to have experienced strict British-style schooling will agree that despite its fearsome reputation, the cane holds our fond memories of learning to grow up and be civilized.

I am not calling for schools to be turned into fascist institutions of pain and torture. But please, think of the long-term consequences. Students need to learn early that life is not all about fun, shirking responsibility, and having parents cater to their every whim.

Otherwise, they will one day learn firsthand that laziness will get them fired, that lack of education limits their opportunities in life and that breaking the law results in imprisonment and even a vicious caning that will leave permanent scars.

Isn’t it much better to teach students the reality of the outside world with a stinging, but harmless, whack on the upper arm?

Now, if anyone wishes to step forward with arguments that teachers should try instead to understand students’ feelings and be more compassionate towards the students, I will simply challenge them to try teaching in an average Malaysian school classroom for a month, or even just a week.

If they can consistently rely on their soft approach, quiet voice and gentle persuasion to quell three dozen unruly students, I will start taking their idealistic fantasies seriously.

But if they are not even willing to personally put their socially progressive dictates to the test, then I would kindly ask them to stop breathing down the necks of the already much harassed teachers.

In fact, if you take a closer look, you may find that the parents who most strongly oppose any form of discipline being imposed on their children are the very same individuals who lord themselves over teachers and the school staff.

SCOTT THONG YU YUEN,
Kuala Lumpur.

—————————

No, I don’t know why mysteriously I shifted to live in Kuala Lumpur. A sign from above?

My full version runs much longer than the one that got printed. It’s amazing that they even put that much into the papers! Full version is a few skips below.

See also these Malaysian education system related posts:

NST Letters: School discipline – Much earlier letter to the papers along the same lines as today’s letter

Malaysian School Education May Suck, But So Does Post-Modern Western Maths

Karangan UPSR

The best of collection

Backwaaaaard, march! Hup, two three four…

Educate THIS! 

FULL VERSION OF CANING LETTER

Save Malaysia’s education system with return of the cane

Bring back the cane, and give the power to use the cane back to the individual teachers!
 
What I am calling for may seem backward, unenlightened and downright draconic… But let’s be realistic here. Just take a look around at the culture we live in.
 
If there is no traffic camera, Malaysians will speed past red traffic lights. If there are no cops on the beat, Malaysians will double-park and toss their trash wherever they wish. Malaysians push and shove to get on board the bus – because if they don’t, others will push and shove and leave them behind at the bus stop.
 
Yet strangely enough, when these same Malaysians cross the Causeway to Singapore, they inexplicably obey all the rules. They even line up to board the bus. This has less to do with the example set by Singaporeans, and more to do with Singapore being such a ‘fine’ city – break the slightest law, and you will unavoidably be slapped with a heavy fine.
 
So back to the topic on hand… When the classroom is full of forty shouting, laughing, screaming, playing, sulking students who want to do anything but study, how is a teacher to restore order?
 
Shout louder than the students? Make them stand up on their chairs (where they will just continue talking to their friends)? Threaten them with a few measly demerit points while they refuse to reveal their real names?
 
Or maybe the teacher should try to intellectually persuade the rowdy students of the necessity of a good education – which goes back to the first suggestion of shouting louder than the entire class?
 
After trying in vain to get the attention of the students, the pragmatic teacher will simply surrender to reality, and instead teach the few students who are willing to learn. That is, if anything could be taught within the maelstrom of distraction and chaos.
 
And if, by some merciful miracle, the class finally quietens down enough for lessons to be attempted… The teacher still has to compete against the tremendous noise from the classes next door.
 
Teachers in today’s schools have all the burden but none of the authority! We place huge expectations on teachers to handle a class full of unwilling students, yet tie their hands with unrealistic rules of conduct.
 
Can you imagine our police force trying to maintain law and order without firearms, handcuffs or powers of arrest? And instead, every encounter they have with the public or criminals is met with lawsuits and threats of physical violence by offended parents?
 
This is exactly what we have done to our school teachers! We have bound their hands in chains and cast their feet in concrete, and now we toss them into a shark-infested sea and ask them to teach our children how to swim! And if the teachers fail to turn our children into Olympic champions, we sue them.
 
The situation is thus the reverse of the ideal classroom environment – the teachers have all the responsibility and no authority, while the students have all the authority and refuse to act responsibly.
 
But it is not too late to salvage the situation. I contend that teachers must be provided with a symbol of authority that the students understand, respect and fear. The cane fits this role perfectly – in fact, it has no purpose other than to instill discipline and maintain order!
 
Even a long wooden ruler would be suitable to encourage the students to comply with the teacher’s demands… But only if the teacher is given authority to use that cane or ruler to punish, immediately and with conviction, but within predetermined guidelines.
 
Anyone who is old enough to have experienced strict British-style schooling – or even the last dying echoes of it – will agree that despite its fearsome reputation, the cane holds fond memories of learning to grow up and be civilized.
 
I am not calling for schools to be turned into fascist institutions of pain and torture. But please, think of the long-term consequences. Students need to learn early on that life is not all about fun, shucking responsibility, and having their parents cater to their every whim.
 
Otherwise, they will one day learn firsthand that laziness will get them fired, that lack of education limits their opportunities in life, and that breaking the law results in imprisonment and – ironically – even a vicious caning that will leave permanent scars.
 
Isn’t it far preferable to teach students the reality of the outside world with a stinging, but harmless, whack on the upper arm?
 
Now, if any self-assured armchair critic wishes to step forward with arguments that teachers should try instead to ‘understand students’ feelings’ and ‘be more compassionate towards the students’… Well, I’m not going to debate the finer points of philosophy with them.
 
I’m instead going to challenge them to put their money where their mouth is… And try teaching in an average Malaysian school classroom for a month – even just a week.
 
If they can consistently rely on their soft approach, quiet voice and gentle persuasion to quell three dozen rioting, arrogant students… Then I will stop rolling my eyes, and start taking their idealistic fantasies seriously.
 
But if they are not even willing to personally put their ‘socially progressive’ dictates to the test, then I would kindly ask them to stop breathing down the necks of the already much-harassed teachers.
 
In fact, if you take a closer look, you may find that the parents who most strongly oppose any form of discipline being imposed on their children are the very same individuals who lord themselves over teachers and school staff.
 
These parents will cut queues, ignore the school rules, insult the socio-economic status of the teachers, make unreasonable demands, and threaten to lodge a report if the teacher doesn’t comply immediately and with sufficient groveling. To such individuals, parents and students are kings and teachers are boot-licking peasants.
 
Is it any wonder, then, that their children show absolutely no respect for the teachers? The students learn from their parents’ own example that civil servants exist only to bow down and worship at their feet! And then these same parents wonder how teachers could possibly have difficulty controlling the class.
 
To those parents that I just described, by all means, go ahead and spoil your own children rotten! You will reap the fruits of your labour at a nursing home in your old age.
 
But please don’t drag the entire education system and everyone else’s children down with your own. Some people actually want their children to mature into constructive citizens, if you please.
 
It is a sad fact that more and more school teachers are looking to private tuition as an alternative to teaching in public schools. But it is not merely a matter of time and money – many of these teachers simply long for the fulfillment of actually TEACHING, for a change!
 
Public schools have deteriorated to the point where all a teacher does each day is attempt to round up students, fill in form after endless bureaucratic form, carry out countless tasks that were not in the job description, and fend off the simultaneous wrath of forty pairs of parents.
 
Now compare for yourselves: A class of forty noisy, uncooperative school students who want to be anywhere but school, versus a group of ten or so tuition students paying rapt attention to your every word and gesture. Which would you rather face every single day, with gentle persuasion as your only permitted tool?
 
It is high time that we halted the decay of our education system and reversed its decline. The alternative is a system where only those who can afford to pay for education will receive it, through private schools and tuition… As the public school environment will have deteriorated to the point where nobody can learn anything amidst the daily upheaval.
 
We want our students to have education of First World standards, yes – but we do not want the school shootings, gangs, drugs and illicit sex that result from the total absence of discipline in the schools of certain First World countries.
 
We can turn Malaysia’s schools around – if only the Education Minister is convinced of the dire need for strict discipline in schools, if only the Malaysian government makes the decree official, and if only parents would stop being so over-protective of their children – at the cost of their futures.
 
If you are for teachers, for discipline and for the future of our students, then stand with me and call for the cane to be brought back to schools!
 
SCOTT THONG YU YUEN

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8 Responses to “The Star: Empower Teachers to Discipline Students”

  1. T Says:

    OMG your full version is so much more powerful! They cut off mine too😦 I compared this one passage to Nazism. Send me a pulse if you want to read it (which I doubt but y’never know).

  2. Scott Thong Says:

    At the risk of helping to fulfil Godwin’s Law and Reductio ad Hitlerum… Sure, fire away.

  3. Sunny Earles Says:

    I am an American parent who has a child in an American Public School. So things are bad in Malaysia? We are trying really hard to support Public Education but discipline and structure are far removed, in order to get these things you must pay for them or find the rare public school where discipline is not seen as punishment but as instruction in good citizenship.
    What do we do? Many parents are paying for private schooling, or due to finances home schooling…this does not bode well for a democratic society. I do not think discipline is taught in teaching school. No one knows how to do it or have it via a structure. It is pretty shocking. I am looking at home schooling now because we cannot afford to pay 400 – 1200 a month for tution with the economic down turn. Please give your opinions parents. I am curious.

  4. simon thong Says:

    I grew up in a school started by Roman Catholic missionaries in Malaysia. It was a public school, and still is. A public school, is one which accepts all who wish to enrol in it. The govt took over the running of such schools over the years. My years of schooling were 1957-1961 (primary school, or grade school) and 1962-1966 (secondary school, or high school).
    In 1957 and 1958, discipline was horrible because Chinese triads(gangs) had their members in the schools. Arrests and expulsions ended that period of triad terror.

    Primary school was not bad in terms of discipline. Children could be naughty but not really bad. There were still many men teachers then, and we feared them because several were tyrants. Some were outright sadists. We were young in age and small in size compared to our teachers.
    They slapped us, hit us with canes and one even used as his cane the huge wooden ruler used for drawing lines on the board. One hit me so hard with it when I was feverish and asleep at my desk that I jumped up and screamed in pain. Another teacher enjoyed the cry of pain when a boy caught a durian (a thorny fruit) with his bare hands. That teacher loved throwing a durian for his pupils to catch. NO BOY complained to his parents about such acts of punishment. Fathers sided teachers. A boy might get whipped at home when his dad learnt that he had been whipped at school. “You must have been naughty for the teacher to beat you!”

    Secondary school was better as boys became big and strong, and often towered over their teachers. More women joined the teaching force. I was small, smaller than almost all the men teachers, and got more than my share of beatings, especially as I was naughty. Other boys were scolded but I got slapped.

    Teachers enforced discipline. They managed their classrooms. However, enough people felt that teachers often abused their authority and beat students unjustly. Society changed and ideas of justice, love and nurturing came into the school. I welcomed that, and I still welcome that. Today, the physical punishment of a student is proscribed by law. In limited circumstances, and only under the supervision of the principal, may anyone cane a student.

    Parents are expected to discipline their child. If you brought up your child with a mixture of love/nurturing and discipline, the teachers would get a wonderful student. I’m a school teacher, and I have many well-brought up students. They make my work enjoyable. Still, I give my all to even the worst brought-up. That’s my calling. But the joy comes mostly from those whose families have brought them up to be human beings. I get too many “animals” whom I have to try and turn into people. I use classroom management skills I learnt over the years. I dominate them with my personality. I teach in a private school (non-govt funded), so discipline is better. Increasingly, parents with children who are recalcitrants “dump” them on us, expecting us to change their rascals into good people. When there are too many of these bad apples, and that has been going on in these last 5 years, discipline in such schools is undermined. One bad apple…

    Home schooling? Only if you can structure your child’s day productively. If your child has a degree of self-discipline, he will benefit. If he is young but still open to your discipline (and love!), he will become self-disciplined. Home schooling will still work. I think that that is the key: a good structure of study-leisure and a child with some self-discipline.

    I wish you all the best! My 3 sons have grown up, so my time is over except for the students I teach at school.

  5. Angel Says:

    I went to public school in the south United States where they could not only spank your behind with a wooden paddle but resereved the right to make you expose your prosterior and inflict the swats directly onto bare skin. A paddle with holes drilled in it to prevent air cushioning and laid hard onto bare flesh, believe me is a most effective punishment and one you dont forget.

    In 5th grade (age 10) I once had to bend over at a 90 degree angle with my hands on the principal’s desk and was given 6 hard licks in that fashion once for slapping a boy across the face. Needless to say I didnt smack anyone else after that. To this day I still get a burning sensation in my seat knots in my stomach and a sense of fear at any thought of striking someone.

    It was inflicted equally on both boys and girls with no distictions made for gender its helliously painful and instills fear in anybody who recieves it. But bad behavior was rare and students were well mannered. so in that sense I dont know of any other penalty that works as effectively, cruel though it may be.

  6. sh*ttyquality Says:

    YOU MUST DIE!!! TEACHERS ARE WHORES!

  7. Dora Says:

    Ah… I found your old blog posts while doing an assignment on the Ethical Dilemmas of Punishing Students. As an aspiring teacher, I agree fully to what you said. Although I’ve met numerous teachers or lecturers who look down on the fact that I am still a student, I believe the few times I grabbed the opportunity to get my hands into teaching, 8 months in total in the span of two years, I do see the need of the sense of authority as teachers enter class. I did learn the hard way months ago when I was doing relief teaching in my ex-school which is a government school when I substituted a teacher teaching a transition class. Everyday was a chaos and for the first week of teaching I cried every night out of desperation for a solution for class management. Only later I resort to the cane which I used as an authority enforcement because I do not want to beat up students firstly because I object that, secondly I don’t want parents to sue me and thirdly I must stay in control in my emotions because there is a temptation to go frenzy when I get really mad at students and explode.

    And I saw such a big difference in the culture of students nowadays from the time I taught two years ago and this year. Students now are more pampered in the fact that they do not get beaten up by parents at all. In my era, my parents did beat us if we went over the line but for them, no. They get what they want, they behave however they want and they say whatever they want. Only few get disciplines like the ones we had.

    But then again the effectiveness of the use of canning depends on the teacher and the school as well. It is sad to say that I observed the misuse or the overuse of canning by the afternoon supervisor. When a case is sent to his office, he doesn’t listen much, he isn’t concerned about the student nor the case. The most he does is to cane them several times then send them back into the class. If it continues, he will punish the student by making them stand outside the office for the whole day at the section where the afternoon sun will scorch on.

    So yeah, just a two pence from me🙂

  8. Scott Thong Says:

    Thanks for the sharing…

    Actually I feel that the cane is merely a tool or aid. What’s important is that the teachers have the real and concrete authority (and guts) to punish students, and that the students know it.

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