corporal punishment in schools

Written by Syeda Sakina Abid 1:47 pm

Corporal Punishment in Schools: A Tragic Norm in Pakistan

Corporal punishment in schools has become a culturally acceptable norm in Pakistan. Through the interviews she conducted with the teachers and students of different schools in Pakistan, the author notes that institutions are turning a blind eye to corporal punishment. This has left children alone to suffer the long-term psychological and physical impacts of the punishment, and forced them to drop out of school.

Introduction

It is the duty of every state to ensure that every child, in the country, has the right to education regardless of his financial status, caste, or family background. Yet, we see that there are many states in the world that are incapable of ensuring this paramount right to every child, which results in a great number of students not completing even their primary education. One of the major reasons for this is the infliction of corporal punishment in schools which causes an increasing number of dropouts.

Dropouts are the children who once took admission in schools but then left them without acquiring school leaving certificates, meaning they never took admission in any other educational institution. The purpose of this research is to find out what is the most leading factor behind children taking this bold step to leave school for good.

This research paper is focused on finding out the relationship between corporal punishment in schools and the number of dropouts from the schools. Pakistan is taken as a case study in this research because Pakistan is at the top of the list of the countries which witness a high number of dropouts every year.

An estimated 22.8 million students leave the schools every year. Corporal punishment in schools is a culturally acceptable thing in the countries like Pakistan which results in the students leaving the schools or losing interest in further continuing their education.

This research paper has been divided into three sections. The first section deals with the education system in Pakistan, the culture of corporal punishment in the schools, legislatures for the prevention of corporal punishment, and the effects of corporal punishment on the personality of the children.

The second section is focused on the attitude of teachers, the difference in private and public sector schools and between different standards of schools, the lack of proper training of the teachers, and the lack of implementation of the legislatures regarding the education rights as well. The third section focuses on the policy implications for the current government to adopt in order to ensure education for the maximum number of children and to decrease the number of dropouts.

The methodology for this research paper includes primary as well as secondary data. For the primary data, interviews have been conducted with school children from primary and secondary levels. The interviews also included the teachers from different schools. Furthermore, the constitution of Pakistan is also considered for the primary data. For the secondary data, different articles and books are consulted regarding the rights of the children and the role of the state.

Role of Corporal Punishment in Children Dropping Out

Right to Education of Children

Education is a fundamental human right. Everyone in the country either rich or poor, living in rural areas or in the urban centers, irrespective of their age, gender, or disability should claim this right. Education is the most fundamental right as it is the key to individual, economic, and societal development.

It is the only key to ensure proper long-lasting peace and sustainability. It ensures individual, as well as collective, well-being by ensuring human dignity. It provides a tool to equate the marginalized societies within the socio-political fabric of the state. Education is the ultimate primary right which is the source of creating awareness in society.

Right to Education (RTE) includes free and compulsory primary education and quality education in private as well as public sector schools. The assurance of the right to education according to the International Law includes:

  • Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ensures everyone has the right to education.
  • The 1960 Convention against Discrimination in Education of UNESCO asserts the elimination of every kind of discrimination in providing education.

RTE demands every state should provide basic primary education to the children of the country, but the education must be quality education and equal for every citizen of the state. However, in developing countries like Pakistan education is still facing serious challenges including societal challenges, challenges regarding the education of girls, class-based private schooling system which creates inequality, and the poor conditions of the public sector schools.

Among the most notorious challenge faced by the education system of Pakistan is a large number of dropouts from the schools. This number is increasing annually which is a serious detriment to the quality of the education system in Pakistan. The children who normally leave the schools for good, result in becoming the street children who are normally susceptible to child labor, working in low-quality restaurants, and mechanic shops, etc.

The dropouts are also prone to radicalism which is a serious problem in Pakistan. These children are also sometimes exploited by terrorist organizations. Hence, this poses a serious threat to any country.

The Education System in Pakistan

The education system in Pakistan is the product of colonial rule. It is under the federal ministry of education. There are three levels of education—primary, secondary, and higher secondary. The educational institutions in Pakistan have been divided into two categories; the private and public sectors. The two segments vary in quality of education, curriculum, and in the teaching methodologies of the teachers as well.

According to Article 25A of the constitution of Pakistan, it is necessary for every government to ensure free and quality education for citizens between 5 to 16 years of age. There are many public sector schools in the country where education is free of cost for every student. These public sector schools are present in rural as well as urban areas but the quality of education in these schools should be a serious matter of concern for the ministry of education.

There have been various shifts in the educational policies and laws since the time of independence. The First-ever step regarding the promotion of education in the country was taken in the “All Pakistan Education Conference” held in 1947 which resulted in the declaration of primary education as universal and imperative. It was followed by the “Commission on National Education” in 1959 which recommended that education should be made compulsory for students till elementary age.

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In all the three constitutions of Pakistan, education has been one of the most important elements of fundamental human rights. Article 25A, pertaining to RTE declares, “The state shall provide free and compulsory education to ALL children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.”

Problems with the Education System in Pakistan

Despite the multiple steps taken by the state of Pakistan, during the tenure of different political parties, in order to improve the system of education, the system still faces many challenges. These challenges include:

  • Inequality between the public and private sector educational institutions.
  • Regional disparities mean that the standard of education is not equal in all the regions of Pakistan as in, the literacy rate in Punjab is far greater than the rate in Baluchistan.
  • Gender discrimination is still an issue in some areas of Pakistan, making the ratio of girls in schools far less than boys.
  • Technical education is lacking.
  • Lack of proper infrastructure for the schools.
  • The number of students dropping out is increasing.

Dropouts in Pakistan

Pakistan is among one of the countries where many students leave schools at the primary or secondary level. In the state, Sindh and Baluchistan have the highest ratio of dropout children. The dropout rate in Pakistan has 53% girls and 47% boys.

According to the data in a UNICEF report, approximately 10.7 million boys and 8.6 million girls are enrolled at the primary level. At the secondary level, this number drops to 3.6 million boys and 2.8 million girls at the lower secondary level.1 Several reasons are responsible for students leaving schools. These reasons comprise of:

  • The economic conditions of the family force the children to work.
  • Unawareness of the importance of education.
  • School may be at a great distance from the residential area.
  • Inappropriate gathering of friends.
  • Corporal punishment in schools.

Corporal Punishment in Schools

“Corporal punishment is a deliberate act of giving physical pain to the students by hitting, spanking, pinching, and slapping with the hand or with any element. It can have harmful effects on human health which causes physical and psychological injuries. Physical punishment can cause injuries and sometimes, it leads to a permanent disability. Whereas, psychological punishment can cause anxiety/depression which lowers their self-esteem and self-confidence.”2

Corporal punishment in schools is a deliberate violation of human rights. It not only affects the physical behavior of the students, but the psychological impacts are even more dangerous. According to a UN report, there are 40 million children around the world who suffer physical and mental abuse every year. Unfortunately, Pakistan is one such country where this trend continues.

Corporal punishment is highly detrimental for the students who wish to continue their studies because it develops school phobia and hatred towards studies. In societies like Pakistan, corporal punishment is culturally accepted. Hence, despite the presence of many legislatures, corporal punishment in schools has not been eliminated in the 21st century when the violation of human rights is a very popular debate.

Pakistan is a member of the UN Convention of the Rights of Child which prohibits corporal punishment within as well as outside schools. The National Assembly of Pakistan had passed a bill in 2013 to prohibit the corporal punishment of children in educational institutions. Nonetheless, the punishment remains.

In September 2019, Hunain Bilal died due to the injuries he sustained while being punished.3 According to a police report of the incident, the teenager was punched repeatedly, grabbed by his hair, and slammed against the wall of his own classroom by his own teacher. This is an indication of how much this corporal punishment can cost someone.

The laws regarding the prohibition of corporal punishment in schools have never been fully implemented in the country because of its cultural acceptability. Some, if not most, Pakistanis see this punishment as a norm and lack awareness about the fundamental rights of the students as human beings.

In order to further continue this research, interviews have been conducted with different school-going students as well as teachers. It is heartbreaking to know that students are brutally beaten by the teachers at their schools. This problem is not only limited to the public sector schools; the students from some of the private schools are also subjected to the same brutality.

One student, while giving the interview, informed that one of his class fellows was inhumanely beaten by his teacher, and the complaint registered against that teacher was paid no heed by the school administration. Furthermore, said student, after this incident, no longer wants to attend the school.

This culture of corporal punishment is greatly reduced in some private schools of the country. A private school teacher, in an interview, stated that the teachers are required to be polite with the students, and physical punishments are not allowed whatsoever. The teachers are properly guided by a code of conduct and are observed by CCTV cameras so that none of the teachers can treat the students badly.

When asked about the salaries of the teachers, she replied that it starts from a minimum of 25,000 rupees. On the other hand, when the interview was conducted with a teacher working in a low-standard school she said that the salaries of the teachers start from Rs. 5000. The teacher interviewed was not satisfied with the job because his salary could not fulfill his needs.

He further explained that the teachers in these low-standard schools are not guided by a code of conduct regarding their behavior with the students. Moreover, these schools do not prohibit any type of punishment.

According to the interviews conducted with the students from the low-standard schools, it was observed that teachers above the age of 35 were more likely to use corporal punishment, and more often than not, they were in a bad mood.

Thus, it is observed that private schools in the country are of two types. The first category involves the schools where the students from elite or upper-middle-class families get educated. These are referred to as upper standard schools in this research paper. On the other hand, there are private schools where students from the lower-middle-class strata of the society get educated, these are the low-standard schools.

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The findings of this research suggest that corporal punishment is more common in low-standard private schools as compared to high-standard private schools.4 This practice is prominent in these schools because students from the lower-middle-class strata of the society lack awareness regarding basic human rights. The prohibition of physical abuse of children is not considered important in this section of Pakistani society.

Most of the teachers who are inclined to use corporal punishment in schools have been employed for more than 10 years. Hence, they are now completely fed up o their jobs and doing it only to make both ends meet.

Other than this the economic conditions of the teachers are often not satisfactory which leads to mental anxiety and teachers opt for an aggressive attitude towards students. This aggression, because of some immediate provocation or frustration, is characterized by Impulsive attacks. This kind of impulsive aggression is a characteristic of psychopaths due to which they can harm the people surrounding them.5

The reasons may vary from depression to insufficient economic conditions. The teachers from the low-standard schools often face problems regarding low salary, an immense workload upon teachers, and lack of facilities given by the state, etc. This may be the reason why teachers in low-standard private schools are more prone to corporal punishment.

Psychological Impacts of Corporal Punishment

To prove the hypothesis of corporal punishment being responsible for students dropping out, this part of the research paper will focus on the impacts of corporal punishment on the students. Corporal punishment is the use of violent means to regulate certain behaviors of the students. When students are subjected to corporal punishment they are not only physically but also mentally disturbed.

Unfortunately, there are many teachers around the world who still consider corporal punishment as a tool for the positive modification of the behaviors of students, no matter how untrue it is in reality. It results in aggressive behavior taking root in the students because through this punishment the students are being taught that violence can be used as a tool to get their desired outcomes.

This aggressive nature is not only detrimental for the personality of the child subjected to it, but it can also prove harmful for the society if he/she leaves school because of corporal punishment and becomes a dropout. Corporal punishment in schools is one reason for the maltreatment of students which has pernicious effects on the psychological condition of the student.

The maltreatment may also lead to “Educationally Induced Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (EIPSD).” An individual suffers from this disorder after being threatened or being a victim of violent behavior at educational institutions.6

Corporal punishment causes serious mental deficiency, mild or severe depression, abnormal physical complaints, psychological and social complications among students which lead to truancy, reduced mental activities, low motivation, increased reactionary attitude, loss of confidence, intolerance, dropouts, lack of trust, and severe personality disorders. Depression further causes other complications such as social isolation, suicide, and so on.

The use of corporal punishment to discipline students may result in them being silenced or forced to conform to the standards but ultimately these students will develop resentment towards the rules and the system. As a result, they show deviant behaviors and may also become problematic individuals later in life.7

Corporal punishment in schools also results in the loss of self-esteem in students which further results in them hesitating to take part in learning activities. The students who are the subject of corporal punishment often show dejection, poor performances in the studies, and don’t actively participate in activities at schools.

This physical torture creates a sense of school phobia in the students that increases the number of absentees from schools. This absenteeism eventually led to the complete withdrawal from schools ultimately.8 Corporal punishment and the unsupportive learning environment at schools result in deteriorating mental health of the students. They create a traumatic experience; because of these conditions, the children feel that a school is an unsafe place and don’t want to go there.9

The positive behavior of the students in school affects the learning patterns of the children.10 The rude behavior of teachers in the classrooms affects the psychological behavior of the students who don’t find interest in the educational activities.

Teachers can direct and increase the interest of students towards learning by creating a friendly, motivating, and interesting teaching and learning environment in the classroom, where students feel safe, encouraged, and respected. Corporal punishment ensures that the psychological impact on the students is highly detrimental and negative because they instill a fear of going to school which ultimately increases the number of dropouts from schools.

Analysis

The students who have been subjected to corporal punishment in schools have the utmost potential to leave the institutes because they develop a negative attitude towards studies. It creates fear among the students to go to school. The purpose of education is to teach the children and to make them civilized citizens who ought to be responsible and have a moderate personality.

The purpose of schools is not only to give degrees to the students but to instruct them on how to differentiate between good and evil, to make them understand humanity, to feel for others, to speak for themselves, and to recognize human rights. However, the current education system in Pakistan is doing the opposite.

Other than this, the class system education, created due to the two categories of private schools is a serious illness of the society. The different modes of conduct in different categories of the schools create a sense of discrimination in the students. The feeling of inferiority in the students from low-standard schools is natural in this matter.

There is a need to pay attention to the training of teachers because their attitudes in classrooms have long-lasting effects on the personalities of the students. If a student abandons his education because of a bad attitude—which may be in the form of corporal punishment or mere harsh words or the threatening only then—of any specific teacher, the entire purpose of the education system is shattered.

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The education policies of a country like Pakistan really need to be revisited because of the persistent trend of corporal punishment and the growing number of dropouts from schools particularly at the age of 5 to 16.

Policy Implications for Institutions

There is a large need for the education ministry of Pakistan to take into consideration the increasing number of dropouts from the schools. Although there are different laws regarding the prohibition of corporal punishment in schools, we see it is still present in the public sector schools as well as in the low-standard private sector schools.

These punishments result in a large number of dropouts and violate the education rights of the children in the country. This research paper is an attempt to provide some policy suggestions for the state of Pakistan to ensure these rights for every child in the state.

  • Strict actions should be taken against the teachers who opt for corporal punishment.
  • There should be proper training programs for the teachers especially for those who teach primary school students.
  • The gap between different segments of the schools should be filled. The quality of education in all the schools, whether public or private, should be the same.
  • The class system in the private schools—characterized in this research paper as upper-standard private schools and lower-standard private schools—should be eliminated.
  • The working environment for the teachers in every school should be the same to ensure a positive attitude towards the students.
  • There should be proper counseling of the students in the schools in order to maintain their good performance in education.
  • If a student does not show good performance in studies, the school is responsible for finding out the actual reason for his performance. Once that’s done, there should be a proper way to deal with that problem if it is associated with the institution.
  • All the private schools should be directed to have the same fee structure in order to eliminate the class structure which has been created within the students. The different standards of the schools are responsible for reinforcing the class structures in society.

Conclusion

Corporal punishment and the negative attitude of the teachers is one of the main causes of students losing interest in studies, and in going to school. This results in an increased number of dropouts from schools.

The amendment of education policies and a uniform education system that will eliminate the discriminatory behavior towards the students will be helpful to lower the number of dropouts. It will ultimately increase the literacy rate of the state of Pakistan.


Endnotes

1 “Education,” UNICEF Pakistan, accessed on December 11, 2020, https://www.unicef.org/pakistan/education.

2 “Corporal Punishment in Schools,” American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, last modified 2014, https://www.aacap.org/aacap/policy_statements/1988/Corporal_Punishment_in_Schools.aspx.

3 Wasim Riaz, “Lahore Teenager Allegedly Beaten to Death by School Teacher,” Dawn News, September 5, 2019, https://www.dawn.com/news/1503704.

4 Hamza Sharif, “Pakistan’s Education System: The Literacy Conundrum,” Paradigm Shift, February 2, 2021, http://www.paradigmshift.com.pk/pakistan-education-system/

5 Nathaniel E. Anderson and Kent A. Kiehl, “Psychopathy and Aggression: When Paralimbic Dysfunction Leads to Violence,” in Neuroscience of Aggression, ed. Klaus A. Miczek and Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg (Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2014), 369-393.

6 Iqbal Ahmad et al., “Effect of Self-efficacy on the Relationship between Corporal Punishment and School Dropout.” Review of European Studies 6, no. 1 (2014).

7 Eve Glicksman, “Physical Discipline is Harmful and Ineffective,” American Psychological Association 50, no. 5 (2019). https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/05/physical-discipline

8 Robert Morrel, “Corporal Punishment in South African Schools: A Neglected Explanation for its Existence,” South African Journal of Education 21, no. 4 (2001), https://www.ajol.info/index.php/saje/article/view/24918.

9 E.T. Gershoff, “Corporal Punishment by Parents and Associated Child Behaviours and Experiences: A Meta-analytic and Theoretical Review,” Psychological Bulletin 128, no. 4 (2002): 539-579, https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/bul-1284539.pdf.

10 K. Daskalogianni and A. Simpson, “Towards a Definition of Attitude: the Relationship between the Affective and the Cognitive in Pre-university Students,” Proceedings of PME 24, no. 2 (2000).

Bibliography

  • Ahmad, Iqbal, Hamdan Said, Zubaidah Awang, M. Yasin, Zainudin Hassan, and Syed Mansur. “Effect of Self-efficacy on the Relationship between Corporal Punishment and School Dropout.” Review of European Studies 6, no. 1 (2014): 196-200.
  • Anderson, Nathaniel E., and Kent A. Kiehl. “Psychopathy and Aggression: When Paralimbic Dysfunction Leads to Violence.” In Neuroscience of Aggression, Edited by Klaus A. Miczek and Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2014. 369-393.
  • “Corporal Punishment in Schools.” American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. last modified 2014. https://www.aacap.org/aacap/policy_statements/1988/Corporal_Punishment_in_Schools.aspx.
  • Daskalogianni, K., and Simpson, A. “Towards a Definition of Attitude: the Relationship Between the Affective and the Cognitive in Pre-university Students.” Proceedings of PME 24, no. 2 (2000): 170-184.
  • “Education,” UNICEF Pakistan, accessed on December 11, 2020, https://www.unicef.org/pakistan/education.
  • Gershoff, E. T. “Corporal Punishment by Parents and Associated Child Behaviours and Experiences: A Meta-analytic and Theoretical Review.” Psychological Bulletin 124, no. 4 (2002): 539–579
  • Glicksman, Eve. “Physical Discipline is Harmful and Ineffective.” American Psychological Association 50. no. 5 (2019). https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/05/physical-discipline.
  • Morrel, Robert. “Corporal Punishment in South African Schools: A Neglected Explanation for its Existence.” South African Journal of Education 21, no. 4 (2001). https://www.ajol.info/index.php/saje/article/view/24918.
  • Riaz, Wasim. “Lahore Teenager Allegedly Beaten to Death by School Teacher.” Dawn News. September 5, 2019. https://www.dawn.com/news/1503704.
  • Sharif, Hamza “Pakistan’s Education System: The Literacy Conundrum.” Paradigm Shift. February 2, 2021. http://www.paradigmshift.com.pk/pakistan-education-system/.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article/paper are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Paradigm Shift.

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About the Author(s)

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Syeda Sakina Abid has a bachelor's degree in International Relations from Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. Penning down her observations regarding the international arena is her passion.
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