Corporal Punishment

Contrary to Canada, Taiwan has a strange miasmic education system. There is a strange mix of different types of schools here, ranging from language schools to public and private schools. The quality of education varies greatly and the Taiwanese always look favorably on foreign teacher employed by their schools to teach their kids English.

My wife has been a teacher for six years. She has worked in an alternative school while I was working in finance. I got some of her stories when we talked about our daily routines. Nothing would prepare me for what a reader of The Memoirs sent me in earlier this week.

Corporal punishment. We have all witnessed it in Taiwan. Some foreign teachers even take it upon themselves to physically correct the kids. I for one refrain from touching the kids in any manner since this is the way things work in Canada. As a student in an International school in Strasbourg, France, I did get my ears pulled slightly in 1st and 2nd grade by my teacher. It was more to get our attention than anything else I believe, because as kids we always got easily distracted.

But I digress in my memories. Conspicously, this is why I include my reminiscences of childhood in here, since it is The Memoirs, my memoirs. Earlier this year, I was actually shocked and flabbergasted by the confessions of two teachers at my previous elementary school, confessing that they were administrating corporal punishment. Mind you, from their descriptions, I didn’t think that they were seriously beating the kids, they were however using means that I found morally reprehensible.

Personally, in my classrooms, I never touched the kids. Sometimes, I might touch a child with my papers on the head, slightly, to make it focus on my lesson. Or I might touch its shoulder. But other than the hugs and playfulness in my Kindergarten classes, there was no touching, which is why I find these reports so disturbing. I also thought that getting yelled at so badly that some students broke down and cried was the worst that could happen to some kids. Little did I know.

From Nick Forinterieur, ESL teacher in Taiwan

So there I was doing my lesson in my class of K2 kids. This class is just out of K1, so they are very boisterous and rambunctious. They are all good kids with good hearts, but they loose concentration easily, especially the younger ones. I was teaching a tediously long class of phonics, in which I had to catch up on some lessons from last week. The reason you ask? I’ve noticed that instead of receiving detailed instructions from the teaching directors, they just assume that we know how everything works and leave it until the last minute to make us do corrections or catch up. This had happened in this class and I was working hard to do this. We were doing letter combinations, B+A, B+E, B+I, using the sounds and trying to recognize them. The kids are pretty good at this and the various learning games that I devised show that they are progressing nicely.

I was testing the kids on their retention and it was getting long, since as per the teaching director’s instructions, I had to go through three different pages of different combinations with each child. The children are aged from 5 to 6. I had noticed that a few had not retained anything of our lesson that day, meaning that they hadn’t paid any attention really in class. This happens in K classes. There I was going through my task list, when the Chinese teacher started disciplining a little girl in front of me. I like this girl, she is very cute, but she hadn’t listened really in class. The teacher had her hand in her own and was smacking it hardly whenever she was making a mistake. And when I mean smack, I mean SMACK. She put in most of her strength and the kids was crying.

She repeated this with my youngest student in this class. Those two girls had problems with the B+I combination which we had just seen. She repeatedly smacked the other little girl on her hand until she too was in tears. And the teacher didn’t stop there, she continued whacking the kid on the hand as much as she could for a few minutes. The situation made me extremely uncomfortable and I was told by the teaching director that the Chinese teacher was responsible for disciplining the kids, I should not get involved. Luckily, class ended and I left.

Once last year, a student of mine confessed to me and my class that his father was beating him. I immediately took this to my teaching director. I was working at a private school. The teaching director took it well. I told her that in Canada, this would have to be reported to the police. The director looked at me strangely and told me that she would deal with this. She told me that they would not tell child protective services or get the cops involved. You see in Taiwan, when the parents don’t get what they want from a school, they just pull their kid out. This happens a lot. The school opted to keep the abusing father’s child in school and not make any complaints.

From this experience, I knew that raising my voice wouldn’t do anything. In fact, I knew that the parents would actually want their child to be disciplined by the teachers, since the kids most probably receive no discipline at home. Just look at their rotten teeth and you know you are dealing with spoiled children.

The same teacher had the one problem child handcuffed last week. Handcuffed you ask? Yes handcuffed, well actually hands tied in the front with scotch tape. He was standing for the whole lesson I believe and got whacked when he tried fidgeting with it. That kid is really a good kid, but he lacks concentration. He fidgets all the time.

Later that day I was teaching my grade 1 class and something eerily similar happened. A boy was teasing a girl who had dropped her coloring pencils. He was using his naked feet to push her pencils further away. Before I could intervene, the Chinese teacher saw this and grabbed the boy. She threw him on the floor and whacked him on the feet several times with the cardboard roll of gift wrapping paper. She whacked him hard, she looked over towards me and I wasn’t looking at the situation. It made me extremely uncomfortable a second time that day.

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Tilo Driessen

Author: range

I'm mathematician/IT strategist/blogger from Canada living in Taipei.

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