Corporal punishment is barbaric. It is acceptable neither in the courts, nor in schools. Judges are no longer permitted or required, as they were until the end of the 1980s, to sentence offenders to strokes of a long rattan cane. Since 1991, teachers have rightly been barred from caning a child. Hong Kong is a better place without such punishments. However, a year after Britain extended the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to Hong Kong, corporal punishment has not disappeared - even from our primary schools. Yesterday a deputy headmaster was given a conditional discharge for 18 months after caning 10-year-old Tsang Chi-leung for not handing in his homework. The caning was forceful enough to leave marks hours later. That sympathisers should consider Wong Tin-kau a victim of over-zealous liberalism is a sign that many people, including parts of the teaching profession, are out of touch with modern thinking. Educational and parenting theory is now firmly opposed to corporal punishment, particularly at such a young age. It is generally accepted that caning does not work for the habitually ill-behaved, and that milder punishments are equally effective for the kind of child who might benefit from a 'short, sharp shock'. There is a danger that corporal punishment may be harsher than intended and inflict real injury, particularly if a child is struck in anger. Teachers are not qualified to judge the damage they may do. Schools must, of course, be allowed to impose discipline. Some would argue it is unreasonable to deprive schools of the means to do so. A clear message must be sent to pupils that disciplinary action will be taken in cases of bad behaviour. But there are better ways of disciplining a child than corporal punishment. In a society as concerned about education as Hong Kong, a stern letter to the parents might be a more valuable weapon. There is a great deal of ignorance among teachers about what is permissible and effective. They must be given guidance on discipline both as part of their basic training and by the schools themselves if education is to be brought out of the dark ages.