Monday, March 5, 2012

Zero tolerance

I just stumbled upon this article about corporal punishment in Indian schools.  The article, published a couple days ago in the Times of India, is based on a study conducted by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights in 2009-2010.  Of 6,632 children interviewed as a part of the study, only NINE denied having received some form of corporal punishment at school.  

In other words, 99.86% of the children surveyed said that they had received corporal punishment at school.

The most prevalent forms of abuse including beating with a cane/stick, slapping children's faces, boxing their ears, and - this is truly nauseating - administering electric shocks was even cited as a type of punishment received by children at some schools.

Teacher Vaishali helping her student with English numbers
Truth be told, it has not always been easy to get AIC staff on board with our "no corporal punishment" policy since almost all of our employees were themselves raised in a culture that accepts corporal punishment and even promotes it as an important teaching tool.  Even parents of AIC children, during discussions about their children's behavioral issues, will respond with something along the lines of, "well you just need to beat him! Obviously he's not going to behave if he isn't scared of you! You have permission to hit him when he is bad."  

A couple years ago, we implemented a Zero Tolerance Policy for corporal punishment in the Education Outreach Program, which means that confirmed instances of corporal punishment will result in termination of employment.  Bewilderment and frustration are often the first reactions that newly hired teachers have to our policy, since they have to refine their classroom management skills in accordance with the rules at AIC.  New teachers quickly realize that they had relied very heavily on corporal punishment (or the threat of it) to keep their students under control in previous teaching positions, and, without that, have very few alternative strategies in their skill set to fall back on.  

Story time - gotta love how excited they are!
To support the teachers and help them adapt to a policy that many find challenging at first, we have implemented a number of measures that include regular regular reminders of the policy and staff meeting discussions about how to deal with certain situations in the classroom, better communication and organizational procedures in the Education Outreach Centre, improved teacher:child ratios, the introduction of caregiving staff into the classrooms, professional counseling for children with consistently disruptive behavior, involvement of families when necessary to develop behavior plans, time for play, meditation and yoga built into the daily classroom schedule, and various other steps designed to foster an environment of respect, tolerance, kindness and learning.  

Although enforcing this policy is not without challenges, it is absolutely imperative that AIC be a place that is safe, both physically and emotionally, for its children.  99.86% is unacceptable. 

AIC Kindergarteners

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