The absence of corporal punishment in local schools is not to be blamed for the increased occurrences of students being disrespectful towards teachers and/or other authority figures.
This is according to Chief Education Officer, Connie George, who said there are no studies to indicate whether there is a correlation between corporal punishment and mannerly behaviour from students.
Notwithstanding the absence of any study, George said she believes a number of other factors can be blamed for what has been described as the stark difference in the behaviour of present-day students and those from ‘the days of old’.
“I was never disrespectful to my teachers but not because I got flogged or not because I feared flogging. On the other hand, there could have so many things competing for the parents time that they haven’t taken the time to do the right type of training and groundwork with their children as they should. So there are other things I would put way above the fact that people are fearful of flogging and it being removed while the discipline may have deteriorated,” George argued.
Bad upbringing from home
She noted that ill-mannered behaviour might be something that was learnt outside of the school environment.
“It comes with the absence of a home structure for some people where you have that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ mentality and that everybody could have corrected a child and those kinds of things,” the chief educator reasoned.
She added: “Lack of respect could be the youthfulness of teachers. It could be a lot of things. In some ways, some teachers are very young and don’t carry the command they should. But my number-one thing would be the lack of respect comes from the home.”
Alternative measures of discipline
In the meantime, Georges said there have been no official reports of corporal punishment in schools since the introduction of Article 55 to the Education Act of 2004, which prohibits corporal punishment in schools.
George said that policy resulted in the Education Ministry finding alternative ways to discipline students.
“In my mind, that is a good thing because you’ll have a number of children who would react to different forms of punishment better than they would have to flogging,” said Georges who is a former classroom teacher.
“One of the things in the system right now that I am trying to push is positive behavioural management that you train children to do the right thing and not so much wait to reward (punish) the negative. We want to reward them for being good.”
Corporal punishment illegal but might still be unofficially practiced
While reiterating that corporal punishment should never be practised in local schools, the Chief Education Officer told BVI News: “I can’t say to you that flogging doesn’t happen in school where somebody may hit a child or something. But, it is not official.”
She continued: “It would not have been officially reported to me because they know the constitution and they know what it says. But I am sure there might have been one or two but no official reports of any kind of those incidents.”
The law’s ‘special exemption’ to flog student
Though corporal punishment in schools is unlawful, there are provisions in the law that permits the flogging of students under ‘special circumstances’.
This is found under subsection two of the aforementioned law which says: “Corporal punishment may be administered where no other punishment is considered suitable or effective, and only by the principal or deputy principal and one senior teacher appointed in writing by the principal for that purpose, in a manner that is in conformity with guidelines issued in writing by the Chief Education Officer.”
But, according to George, that has never been used.
During a meeting held by Education Minister Dr Natalio Wheatley on June 20, some educators had raised concerns about the lack of respect shown by students to teachers and adults. Stakeholders inclusive of parents and teachers responded by applauding in agreement.
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