[EDITORIALS]Use the rod, sparinglyA draft of "School Life Regulations," by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources, has created wild debate over the physical punishment of students. It aroused debates over allowing teachers to execute such punishments, level of punishments and the appropriateness of such punishments. The ministry set a guideline on the level and methods allowable for the teachers when they give physical punishment to students starting with the new semester in September.
We agree with the inevitable use of the rod by teachers in their classrooms. But making physical punishment itself an object of ridicule, as is done by the Education Ministry's draft regulations, should at best be avoided.
The draft describes in detail the occasion, method, place and tools to be used when teachers punish students physically. For example, the rods used for primary and middle school students should be 1 centimeter in diameter, while those to be used for high school students shall be 1.5 centimeter and the length should be 50-60 centimeters. Boys will be struck on their buttocks and girls should be struck on their thighs. Primary and middle school students shall get a maximum of five lashes and high school students shall get a maximum of 10. The ministry explains that it specified the level and the method of punishment in order to minimize controversy over physical punishment and abuse of punishment by teachers.
The reaction from teachers and teacher organizations is that the guideline regulates so much in detail that it might bring further disputes. In the course of scolding students, teachers might strike a student on the head or strike a student on the palm with a rod, and those acts would be in violation of the guideline. Already telephone calls asking whether a teacher who kicks a students is punishable are flooding the ministry.
What is necessary in this controversy is for teachers, parents and students to gather together and work out their own regulations, making those regulations suitable and reasonable to their own circumstances. Teachers need to know that physical punishment should be maintained at a minimum level and limited to unavoidable occasions.