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School CP - September 2019

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Today, Singapore, 6 September 2019


Can students be caned in schools and can parents take action against educators?

By Faris Mokhtar


SINGAPORE -- The police are investigating a case of a Primary 6 student who was caned by his school's discipline headmistress. The student's mother had made a police report after seeing cane marks on her son's arm and leg.

On Thursday (Sept 5), Chinese evening daily Shin Min Daily News reported that the police case was filed on Tuesday, and that the boy and a classmate were caned after they allegedly had an argument.

The mother was quoted as saying that she had filed a complaint to the Ministry of Education (MOE) because the disciplinary action goes against its guidelines.

The police are now investigating the case as voluntarily causing hurt.

So is caning a disciplinary measure allowed in schools?


The answer can be found in Article 88 of the Education (Schools) Regulations of the Education Act. It states that no corporal punishment shall be administered on female pupils.

As for male students, corporal punishment "shall be administered with a light cane on the palms of the hands or on the buttocks over the clothing".

Article 88 also says: "No other form of corporal punishment shall be administered to boy pupils."

"Where there is more than one teacher in a school, corporal punishment shall be inflicted by the principal only or under his express authority," it states.

Principals as well as teachers, some of whom are in charge of discipline, told TODAY that a school's disciplinary measures are clearly stated in a handbook for students, which are then shared with parents.

Caning is one of the disciplinary measures considered for "very serious offences", they said. Others include detention, suspension and even expulsion.

For schools, serious offences include cyber bullying, theft, vandalism, cheating in examinations, smoking in school as well as fighting in and out of school.


The educators, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as they are not authorised to speak to the media, said that some schools have completely removed corporal punishment, while others still retain it though it is used as a "last resort".

One secondary school principal said that in using corporal punishments, the approach is more "corrective than punitive".

For some schools such as Zhenghua Secondary School which have removed corporal punishment, they replaced it with what is called "restorative practices".

Essentially, it involves asking the student to reflect on his or her actions. They would be counselled and asked what they have to do to make things right.

Some schools would list their disciplinary policy on their websites, saying that they reserve the right to decide on the best possible consequence for each offence committed. It is not explicitly stated that they have to inform parents before meting out the disciplinary actions.


MOE provides schools with guidelines with regard to disciplinary measures, but educators said that schools can exercise discretion in deciding the appropriate punishment and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.



Lawyers told TODAY that in the event parents make a police report against a teacher over the alleged use of corporal punishment, there is no case if the actions fall within the perimeters of Article 88 of the Education (Schools) Regulations of the Education Act.

However, if a teacher goes beyond that, then parents might have a case.


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