The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has issued a notice to boards of education across the country, providing guidelines on corporal punishment. The notice lists examples of physical punishment banned under the School Education Law and also specifies permissible disciplinary actions for students.
Where should the line be drawn between corporal punishment and rigorous guidance? Lack of understanding among teachers breeds chaos. Keeping every teacher informed about the difference between the two could help eliminate physical punishment at school.
The notice cites the following acts as examples of corporal punishment: slapping rebellious students in the face, throwing ballpoint pens at those who act up and refusing requests for permission to go to the restroom while students are being kept in the classroom after regular school hours.
On the other hand, forcing students to remain standing in the classroom, giving extra homework and obliging them to help with cleaning have been confirmed as permissible reprimands under the guidelines. The guidelines also say that when one student is physically attacking another, it is acceptable for a teacher to grab the attacker by the shoulders to pull the attacker away.
This reflects the idea that the use of force by teachers can be permitted only for the purpose of preventing one student from inflicting violence on another. This is a commonsense way to draw the line.
The fact remains, however, that teachers encounter a wide variety of situations as they face students in everyday school life. It would be counterproductive if the notice were taken as a rigid manual that restricts teachers from taking flexible responses. There may be cases in which teachers must act firmly.
Many young teachers say they “don’t know how to scold pupils.” It is essential for them to cultivate their capacity for judgment so that they can provide adequate advice wherever necessary.