Should pupils be made to write lines?

SINGAPORE - When a child makes a mistake in school, how far is too far when it comes to disciplining them?

Teachers My Paper spoke to said they commonly dish out verbal warnings or make students stand in front of their fellow classmates - usually for short periods of time - if they need to be disciplined.

But, to some parents, these forms of punishment are too harsh.

Business-operations analyst Eunice Loh, 45, who is the mother of a young child, said: "To humiliate students who have an inferiority complex will affect their mentality and, ultimately, impact them when they grow up.

"If you talk to the students, counsel them and reason with them, it would be more appropriate because they would understand better."

Some parents say they would rather teachers leave any form of disciplining to them.

Said food-outlet manager Boon Lim, 46, who has two young children: "Teachers should always let parents know before administering any form of punishment.

"The teacher is there to teach, not to discipline."

These days, teachers say they stress the importance of a child understanding why his actions are wrong.

A 22-year-old primary-school teacher told My Paper that she sticks to a disciplinary regime she formulated herself.

She said: "If pupils misbehave, they get one verbal warning. The second time they make the same mistake, they get a 'timeout' and have to write a reflection piece."

A veteran teacher said that teachers are now advised to take a "softer approach", like counselling, when dealing with difficult students.

She said: "When I started teaching 20 years ago, corporal punishment was kept to a minimum... Only principals and discipline masters could administer it."

On Wednesday, Stomper Thiyanes posted on citizen-journalism website Stomp a report about a pupil who had called a classmate names.

She said the pupil was made to put in writing that he would not do so again - 1,000 times. The Stomper wrote: "This is definitely not the right way."

In response to My Paper's inqueries, a Ministry of Education (MOE) spokesman said that all teachers have a role in instilling discipline and teaching values.

The spokesman said: "Punishment is always complemented with counselling and follow-up guidance.

"MOE provides schools with a set of guidelines in the management of school discipline, such as the objectives of discipline and communication of school rules."

Within this set of guidelines, schools may formulate their own rules - including disciplinary action for the management of students - based on context and needs.