Sparing the rod spoils today's underachieving child

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 February, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 February, 2001, 12:00am

Nowadays, few people approve of corporal punishment, a discipline long banned in Hong Kong. Though I was too young to be aware of the debate years ago, I was punished severely by several stern teachers. I can still recall how one female teacher gave me six of the best. Yet now I appreciate the seriousness of that teacher, which helped me shed my laziness. Today I begin to understand the rationale for not abandoning corporal punishment altogether, given the deteriorating behaviour and language displayed by students.

While most people, especially those in the Education Department, suspect that the solution lies in upgrading teachers' language proficiency, pupils have to shoulder at least 50 per cent of the blame for the general decline in language abilities. As a teacher for more than a decade, I have seen many low achievers, and still can do nothing for those who simply refuse to learn.

While not calling for a full return to corporal punishment, I think most, if not all, of behavioural and learning problems could be solved if the ban was lifted to a reasonable degree. Bright but lazy pupils could be spurred on to achieve more if school heads were allowed to cane them under strict, authorised guidelines. Habitual troublemakers would similarly be deterred.

Young children are not fully aware of their needs. They do not know they can suffer life-long handicaps if they lead a rudderless life during their formative years. It is therefore up to parents and educators to point children in the right direction before the day they accuse us of not caring more about what happened to them.