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Guidelines for the Elimination of Corporal Punishment in Schools (GECP)

Context

The Tamil Nadu School Education Department has issued Guidelines for the Elimination of Corporal Punishment in Schools (GECP).

About

  • The GECP includes safeguarding the mental well-being of students and conducting awareness camps to familiarise stakeholders with the guidelines of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) for effective implementation.
  • It also includes measures such as:
  • Promptly addressing any complaints related to corporal punishment,
  • Extending the focus beyond eliminating corporal punishment to address any form of harassment or situations impacting students’ mental health,
  • And establish monitoring committees at each school comprising school heads, parents, teachers, and senior
    students to oversee the implementation of guidelines and address any issues was also part of the GECP.

Corporal Punishment

  • Corporal punishment is the use of physical force against a child as a ‘corrective’ form of enforcing discipline.
  • Usually, teachers who are unable to discipline their students take recourse to physical assault.
  • Children are subject to corporal punishment in schools; institutions meant for the care and protection of children such as hostels, orphanages, ashram shalas, and juvenile homes; and even in the family setting.
  • Currently, there is no statutory definition of corporal punishment of children in Indian law.
  • In keeping with the provisions of the RTE Act, of 2009, corporal punishment could be classified as physical punishment, mental harassment, and discrimination.

Perceptions of Corporal Punishment

  • Punishing children is regarded as normal and acceptable in all settings – whether in the family or institutions.
  • It is often considered necessary so for children to grow up to be competent and responsible individuals.
  • It is widely used by teachers and parents regardless of its evident lack of effectiveness, and potentially deleterious side-effects.
  • This follows from the belief that those in whose care children are entrusted in school or other institutions are ‘in loco parentis’ and will therefore always act in the interests of the child.
  • This notion needs to be reviewed in light of the widespread violence that exists in all institutions occupied by children.

Consequences of Corporal Punishment

  • Impact on the Development of Child: It is now globally recognized that punishment in any form or kind in school comes in the way of the development of the full potential of children.
  • When adults use corporal punishment it teaches their children that hitting is an acceptable means of dealing with conflict.
  • Normalizing Violence: Corporal punishment leads to adverse physical, psychological, and educational outcomes – including increased aggressive and destructive behavior.
  • Children subjected to punishment prefer aggressive conflict resolution strategies with peers and siblings and they do not consider it a violation of their rights.
  • Social Concerns: It can lead to poor school achievement, poor attention span, increased drop-out rate, school avoidance and school phobia, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, suicide, and retaliation against teachers – that emotionally scar the children for life.

Status of Corporal Punishment in India

  • Section 17 (1) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 expressly bans subjecting a child to mental harassment or physical punishment.
  • Cruelty to children is also prohibited under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
  • These laws hold teachers and adults liable for assault or Corporal punishment of children.
  • Article 37 (a) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which India is a signatory, says that no child should bear any torture, cruelty, or inhuman punishment.

Relevant Constitutional Provisions

  • Violence against children is a violation of the right to live with dignity which is integral to the right to life under Article 21.
  • Further, Corporal punishment serves as a deterrent to children from attending school and contributes to the dropout rate.
  • This goes against the Right to Education as a Fundamental Right guaranteed under Article 21-A of the Constitution of India.
  • Article 39 (e) of the Constitution directs the State to work progressively to ensure that the tender age of children is not abused.
  • Article 39 (f ) of the Constitution directs the State to work progressively to ensure that “children are given opportunities and facilities to develop healthily and conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and moral and material abandonment.”

Government Initiatives 

  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, of 2000 is an important statute that criminalizes acts that may cause a child mental or physical suffering.
  • Some provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 can be used to prosecute an adult in the general category who inflicts corporal punishment upon a scheduled caste or scheduled tribe child.
  • Various provisions of the Protection of Civil Rights Act, of 1955 can be used to prosecute a person/ manager/ trustee as well as warrant the resumption or suspension of grants made by the Government to the educational institution or hostel on the grounds of untouchability.
  • The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and the State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCRs) have been entrusted with the task of monitoring children’s right to education under Section 31 of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

Suggestions

  • The school should maintain the student-teacher ratio at the level as prescribed under the RTE Act, 2009, to avoid overcrowding and unmanageable classes, leading to the practice of corporal punishment.
  • All children should be informed through campaigns and publicity drives that they have a right to speak against physical punishments, mental harassment, and discrimination.
  • The teachers should be trained in the skills required to positively engage with children who are different to understand their predicaments.
  • The conduct of the teacher and administration should be such that it fosters a spirit of inclusion, care, and nurturing.
  • A mechanism for children to express their grievances both in person and anonymously should be provided.