Should Teachers Indulging In Corporal Punishment Be Sent To Jail?

Posted on July 2, 2012 in Education

By Subhayan Mukherjee:

The issue regarding corporal punishment in schools is not new. It is a matter of endless discussions, heated debates and it has had the tendency to snatch the limelight on several occasions. The prima facie of the matter is rather simple: teachers beating up students because students won’t be disciplined. Of course, the “beating up” has slowly expanded to include “mental harassment” too, but the essence remains the same

Now, as with most touchy topics, there are clearly two sides to this matter. While on one hand, teachers inherently believe, that to instil the value of discipline into students, it is ‘necessary’ to be strict with them. The other side quite simply becomes students complaining that in the process of imparting discipline teachers have crossed the limits of humane strictness.

With a certain new amendment to an existing act in juvenile justice, this issue has grown even more. The amendment simply delivers jail to teachers who use corporal punishment or verbal abuse on their students. What makes the amendment ambiguous and open to discussion is that, just like several other loopholes in India’s mighty list of legislations, no statutory definition of “corporal punishment” exists. It vaguely refers to topics like physical punishment, mental harassment or discrimination, but does not definitively define the term in black and white.

Thus, while it may be perceived to be a major victory on the students’ side, teachers have been left complaining that with this new addition to an already long list of legislations, their professionalism has been encroached upon. How does one draw the line between strictness that is necessary and over-the-limit punishment? The law does not make any provisions for that. And given the benefit of doubt in most occasions, it is the teacher who is at a disadvantage.

Of course, their fears are not misplaced. As it is, according to the law, students should be allowed to pass all classes automatically till eighth standard, and now they have the new immunity against teachers scolding them in class. Teachers, on the other hand are at a complete loss to conjure newer ways of trying to discipline them. They have the constant nagging fear at the back of their minds, “what if my honest attempts are seen in the wrong light?” and “what if I have to go to jail for this?” This can be detrimental to the effectiveness of an otherwise good teacher as well. The result of all this? Teachers slacking because of the constant fear, and thus “schooling” a completely non-disciplined bunch of students.

School students are the very pillars of a country’s future, and making them legally immune to strict disciplinarians may not be the best way for the country to progress further. After all, the country needs well disciplined people. People who are aware of what is right and what is wrong. Nipping their very right to be disciplined in the bud, in early stages of their life might snowball into a dangerous scenario later on.