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Ban on use of the cane

THAILAND

THE bamboo cane, frequently used to keep docile classrooms and even lecture halls in line, is about to be banned in Thailand.

From the beginning of November corporal punishment will be outlawed in schools, colleges and universities.

The move is part of a drive to modernise Thai education practices and stop teachers ruling their classrooms by fear.

Rote-learning, an unquestioning attitude among students, and teaching methods that have changed little in a century are being phased out in a seismic shift in teaching styles.

The banning of the cane, wooden rulers and smacking is the latest in a long line of changes following the

introduction of the 1999 National Education Act, which aims to put "student-centred" learning techniques in the classroom.

News of the ban has been the talk of staffrooms across the land. Wanpen Intra, director of Bangkok's Wat Makutkasattiyaram school, said he feared teachers would now lose the respect of their pupils.

The Thai proverb: "If you love your cattle tie them up, and if you love your children you must raise your hand," has been accepted by generations.

Although some Thai child rights groups have spoken out against corporl punishment, they have been nowhere near as vocal as their Western counterparts. This is largely because Thailand is a Buddhist society in which elders are respected, often without question.

However this year several children have been badly beaten by teachers, one about the head with a guitar, adding to pressure for a ban.

Teachers accused of beating their pupils too harshly typically pressure parents to withdraw their complaints or, in serious cases, end up being transferred by their superiors to other schools rather than face criminal action.

Commenting on the ban, education minister Somska Prissanananthakul said: "I think we should instead give the students advice and inculcate a good conscience in them."

In future teachers who want to punish pupils physically will have to first seek the approval of a special panel to "prevent teachers' emotions from getting at students", the minister said. There was no evidence that corporal punishment was effective.

Pupils will now be disciplined by being assigned extra-curricular activities, put on probation or suspended for up to seven days.

Teachers breaching the ban on corporal punishment could face disciplinary action.

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