Forms Of Punishment
in the Canadian Public School System
Over the past couple of years, the use of corporal punishment
in the Korean school system has been a subject of much debate. As
far as I know, many people believe that the old system of using
physical punishment to keep students in line is outdated and barbaric.
On the other hand, some teachers and parents believe that corporal
punishment or the threat of corporal punishment is the only way
to control students. To abolish it would create an environment in
which the students would misbehave with a complete lack of respect
for their teacher.
As a visitor to Korea, I find
this debate interesting and am curious to see what the final outcome
will be. As a counter-point, I’d like to give Koreans a chance
to learn something about the ways that Canadian students are punished.
First, beating students used to be an accepted form
of punishment in Canadian schools. This took the form of hitting
the students on their hands or backsides with a rubber strap or
a wooden paddle. This was not a common form of punishment, as the
threat of being strapped or paddled was usually enough to keep students
in line. Being told to “go to the principal’s office” usually
struck fear into the hearts of misbehaving students (as the principal
and not the teacher would be the one to beat the student). However,
this was usually only threatened in extreme cases and the principle
usually only threatened to beat the students the next time they
were summoned to the office. In the 1970’s corporal punishment
was phased out of most Canadian school districts.
there are several levels of punishment commonly practiced in Canadian
schools. The first form is known as detention. Detention consists
of making the student stay in the classroom after school is finished.
Usually for an hour or so. In high schools, where there are many
students, there may even be a special detention room, supervised
by one of the teachers. While in detention, students are often told
to write lines. For example, if a student slept in class, his punishment
would be to write, “I will not sleep in class.” 200 times. Students
consider detention to be an extreme waste of their time as they
could be playing with their friends or watching TV during this time.
Sometimes students are allowed to work on their homework while in
The next level of punishment involves
letting the students parents know about the problem. In this case,
the principal calls the students parents himself and lets them know
that their son or daughter is having problems at school. This is
considered quite serious for most students because their parents
will probably punish them severely on their own.
much more serious offences, or for no improvement in the students
behavior after several detentions and calling his/her parents, students
may be suspended from school. A student who is suspended is forbidden
from attending school for a number of days (usually a week or so).
This is considered very severe punishment by most students and is
likely to affect their behavior for the rest of the school year.
Finally, the highest level of punishment is expulsion.
When a student is expelled, he/she is sent out of the school for
the rest of the year. He may start the same grade over again the
next year or try to enroll in another school Students that are expelled
often go to a special school for students with discipline or other
So, that’s a general outline of punishment
in Canadian schools. Most students don’t experience more than a
couple of detentions in their elemetary school days and some get
through school without being punished at all.
the Canadian system effective? These days, discipline problems are
common, but not serious in most Canadian classrooms. Some people
advocate bring back corporal punishment to keep kids in line, but
the overwhelming majority of Canadians are willing to put up with
a few misbehaving or troublesome students at the cost of sparing
them from physical punishment.
Can the Korean school
system effectively abolish corporal punishment and still maintain
discipline in the classroom? Only time will tell. Obviously the
differences in school culture between Canada and Korea would make
the Canadian system that I grew up with awkward at best. As university
students who will have families of your own in the future, I’m
sure you’re as curious as I am about what will happen.
by Indra Venables
(a Foreign Professor)