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Physical punishment has negative impact on studies, reveals survey

An 8 year old who experience corporal punishment at school is likely to have poorer maths scores when he reaches the age of 12 as compared to his peers who’ve not been hit by teachers – reveals a study by “Young Lives”, a unique international study of childhood poverty following the changing lives of 12,000 children in 4 countries – Ethiopia, India (in Andhra Pradesh & Telangana), Peru and Vietnam – over 15 years.

The study also reveals that boys are more likely to be hit/ punished than girls, although girls are found to be at a greater risk of experiencing sexual violence or similar forms of humiliation. It was also found that within the same school, poorer children are significantly more likely to be punished than their better-off peers in India.

According to the United Nations, ‘corporal’ or ‘physical’ punishment has been defined as any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort, however light. Most involves hitting (“smacking”, “slapping”, “spanking”) children, with the hand or with an implement.

In India, 80% of the 8 year old students who took part in the survey, reported that they had been physically punished in the last week. More than 90% Indian children said that they had witnessed other kids being hit in school that week.

This survey has been conducted by Dr. Kirrily Pells and Maria Jose Ogando, among 8,000 children in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam. “Our data tracks the same children throughout their childhood. Therefore we can identify connections between earlier experiences of corporal punishment and academic performance later in school. Our earlier studies had found harmful effects associated with corporal punishment, such as students bunking school and feeling scared & confused. Our latest study suggests that corporal punishment has a long-lasting impact on children’s education as well,” said Dr. Pells.

It is ironic that the institutions which are supposed to ensure that children bloom and reach their full potential are indulging in practices that are in total contrast to their core objectives. The National Study on Child Protection Mechanisms conducted by the Childline India Foundation reports that only 12% of school principals have had any training in child rights and child protection. Lack of training and sensitization of teachers about the emotional development of students are major reasons why the practice of corporal punishment continues in Indian schools, despite being banned.

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