Punishments Need to Stop! 'If They are Kids and We are Grown-ups, Why do They Need to Understand us More than We Needing to Understand Them'
Recently, I was speaking with a noted educator who has been working with the CBSE for over two decades. Our topics of discussion started with the curriculum, delivery mechanisms and somehow wavered off to punishment.
I have been thinking of the punishment system in Indian schools ever since and realized it was high time that I some light on how it is disturbing our kids today. Being a recent school graduate of 2007, I remember a time in Class 9 when we were hearing news of corporal punishment being banned for schools and I also remember an FIR being lodged on one of my school teachers when he had slapped a kid.
It is good that we are done with corporal punishment legally (in reality, it is still rampant), but my attention today is on the psychological punishment being meted out by school teachers and administrators which is doing much more damage than corporal punishment mostly did.
Were you familiar with hearing statements by your class teacher in front of your entire class, your friends and colleagues such as 'Is this what your parents have taught you' or ' Is this how you behave at home' or 'Do you belong to an illiterate family'? Well, I would hear such statements everyday when I was in school and the victims were always the same bunch of kids.
Being an educator from the modern world, I feel these direct statements in front of your peers are a damaging proposition. It is damaging in a sense that you are being mocked by a grown up person who does not have the ability to peacefully manage and resolve problems. It is damaging in a sense that you would be next mocked by your friends after the class is over.
I remember a few instances when I was punished just for challenging a teacher's ego. To me it did not make sense, was my teacher not proud that I was not blindly listening to what he said but was actually thinking! So, punishment was suddenly less about me being wrong and more about hurting a teacher's ego.
Do we really need to do this?
Today, I am worried about kids who are punished daily. Initially it becomes a traumatic experience and soon comes a time when the kid would just stop caring. This is the instance where we may have created an anti-social element. Is anybody benefiting from such a system? I truly believe not.
I still see some kids standing out, some teachers shouting at the top of their voices, etc when I visit schools or principals trying to resolve a complain of a very stubborn child in the presence of the child and teacher. Are we really doing well just by putting a ban on corporal punishment?
So, the question that crops up next is what do we do about it? There needs to be a radical change in case we wish to see the situation to be different, to ensure we are able to understand even the wild kids without misusing the power of any form of punishment.
We started following an interesting strategy at Gyan Lab for the same. I have very firm beliefs that this will have miraculous results as we are seeing some good cases already. We have a number of really mischievous kids in Gyan Lab especially in the lower classes. They are kings and queens of their own accord. Under no circumstances would they sit quietly. This also started resulting in breakage of a number of equipments and we needed to figure out a way to do something correct about this. That is when it struck me that we needed to make the kids realize their mistakes and the gravity of their mistakes without being harsh or overbearing on them. So, we started replacing the stuff without scolding or charging the kids (unlike a classroom, where any breakage mostly results in parents of the guilty paying up). But we brought this situation to their notice. And we asked to write down as to what had happened, what went wrong and how can we ensure that such incidents do not happen in the future. We then made these kids responsible for ensuring that the same mistake was not repeated by anyone else. We also made them realize that this had made us pay a lot and now we were losing money. This made them sad too and imbibed an important lesson in their minds. We started teaching them about things such as taxes and other necessary economic concepts. They would work out to find how much would their parents earn and understand that it was unwise to ask for expensive gifts on a regular basis as it was hard-earned money. Of course, some kids surprisingly also spoke about bribes, black money and we had to tell incidents of really popular people ending up in jail for the same and understood that at this tender age they already knew about their parents black money dealings.
Though we did not have cent percent results, we were influencing kids positively, we were helping them judge right and wrong, and we were giving them a sense of responsibility (which nearly everyone waives off as they are ‘just kids’). And now, we are making this a mandate at Gyan Lab.
At the end of the day, my question is if they are kids and we are grown ups, then why do they need to understand us more than we needing to understand them. I think we have something very serious to think about now!