It is clear that something needs to be done about discipline in schools, but reintroducing corporal punishment, even on a limited scale, is probably not the answer.
This is one of the findings of a study by Dr Noorullah Shaikhnag, senior lecturer and deputy director at the School of Psycho-Social Education of the North-West University (NWU).
The study revealed strong differences among learners, teachers, parents and school governing bodies on the topic of corporal punishment.
Dr Shaikhnag found that 61% of learners and teachers were sceptical about using corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure, and strongly believed that reintroducing corporal punishment would retard progress at school.
On the other hand, 60% of parents and school governing bodies favoured the reintroduction of corporal punishment.
The sample for the study was drawn from 400 learners and 100 teachers from 20 high schools in an educational region of North West.
Impact of corporal punishment on teaching and learning
Although the theoretical investigation revealed that the abolition of corporal punishment did dampen the teaching and learning domain, the empirical investigation did not show any such relationship.
The data, taken at face value, showed that the abolition of physical punishment did influence the teaching-learning environment. However, the chi-squared test applied to the data indicated that no significant relationship existed between the abolition of corporal punishment and the teaching-learning process.
The study further found that since corporal punishment was abolished, teachers have tried to use alternative methods of maintaining discipline, including a positive attitude and building good relationships with learners.
A study, conducted in 2017 by Dr Shaikhnag and two other scholars, indicated that abolishing corporal punishment in schools had had far-reaching implications for the teaching fraternity. Many educators had been unable to deal adequately with learner misbehaviour and had left the teaching profession.
The above authors further indicated that many teachers expressed unhappiness with the current poor discipline at schools and complained that not much was done by the government to curtail it. The problem is further exacerbated by drugs and alcohol at schools, Shaikhnag et al. (2017) contend.
Teachers who command respect do better
The current study also found that teachers who command respect in the classroom as opposed to shouting and screaming at them maintain good relationships with the learners.
Be that as it may, the study found that many respondents, including teachers and parents, believed that minimal use of corporal punishment could help to reduce poor discipline.
Dr Noorullah Shaikhnag