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New Straits Times, Kuala Lumpur, 8 April 2008

Three steps before teachers use the cane

By Anis Ibrahim

KUALA LUMPUR: The days of caning students first and talking about the reasons later are over. It's now going to be talk first -- and lots of it -- with the cane coming last.

The process will see discussions between school authorities and the student, and, if necessary, his parents.

Under a three-step disciplinary process announced by the Education Ministry yesterday, teachers will first reprimand the student and warn him about his behaviour.

Deputy director-general of Education in the Schools Department, Datuk Noor Rezan Bapoo Hashim, said if this failed, teachers would discuss the matter with his parents.

If he still does not realise the error of his ways, the student will be told to present himself before the school disciplinary committee for a talking-to in his parents' presence.

And only if that does not do the trick will the offender be caned.

A new element in the rules is the opportunity for the student to defend himself before the disciplinary committee.

"The committee will read out his wrongdoings and he'll be asked to explain himself before the committee.

"In other words, we're giving him a platform to defend himself. We will also call his parents to be there as well," Noor Rezan said.

The new ground rules on caning come in the wake of public debate over the merit and demerit of caning.

Noor Rezan said the ministry decided that the "soft approach" should be the preferred option when student indiscipline was a serious problem.

"Before doing anything, teachers should first reprimand the child and warn him about his behaviour. Caning is the last resort. I cannot stress that enough."

Speaking after a symposium on children's rights yesterday, Noor Rezan said teachers cannot be emotional.

She said students with disciplinary problems should also be sent for counselling.

"This means that in deciding how to deal with a child, we must be guided not only by his disciplinary report, but also his counselling report.

"Counsellors must co-operate and discuss problem students with disciplinary teachers. They cannot be at loggerheads," Noor Rezan said, adding that in national schools, one counsellor was assigned to every 500 students.

Earlier, Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) chairman Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman opened the symposium, which was jointly organised by Suhakam and the Education Ministry.

Copyright 2008 The New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad. All rights reserved.

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