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Lessons in violence nurture shame and more violence for children


On the second anniversary of the UN World Report on Violence against Children, UNICEF Malaysia calls for a ban on corporal punishment in schools

KUALA LUMPUR, 6 October 2008 – Corporal punishment in schools harms children and damages their education highlights the United Nations World Report on Violence Against Children. According to the Report, lessons in violence have little positive disciplinary value, teaching students that violence is an acceptable solution when dealing with problems.

“A formula of scoldings, beatings and other physical and psychological punishments end with students feeling angry and humiliated,” says the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative to Malaysia Mr. Youssouf Oomar.

“There is little value for the child or the community as students who experience violence become withdrawn from academic pursuit and less motivated to succeed.”

The World Report was conducted through five years of intensive consultation including nine regional consultations involving governments, civil society, and children; thematic consultations with relevant experts; field visits; as well as questionnaires to 133 governments, including Malaysia.

Released two years ago in October 2006, the landmark Report exposes the shocking scope of violence against children and documents its devastating effects on children, their families, their communities, and broader society.

Children experience violence in safe spaces

Children, more often than not, experience violence at the hands of the very individuals responsible for protecting them, underlines the Report, and in spaces meant to be safe for their growth and development. Schools were cited as one such location where children experience violence, both from their teachers in the form of corporal punishment as well as from their peers in the form of bullying.

The Report suggests that children who are physically punished at school may become less likely than other children to internalise moral values, and may become depressed or aggressive.

“Corporal punishment erodes students’ trust in their teachers and their schools. It can lead to students feeling disrespectful and angry toward their educators. It also negates a child’s capacity to respond to reason,” explains Mr. Youssouf. “Antisocial, aggressive and depressed children have unforgiving costs to society as it brings about demanding social and health problems well into their adult live.”

In Malaysia, corporal punishment in schools is generally viewed as disciplinary action to control students who misbehave. While serious disobediences such as stealing, smoking, gangsterism and bullying are some reasons for the appearance of the cane or wooden ruler in the classroom, minor transgressions such as incomplete homework have also been dealt with physical punishment.

Corporal punishment infringes on education

UNICEF believes that corporal punishment should be abolished because it is both abusive and ineffective. It also infringes on the right to education. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits the use of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, regardless of circumstance.

Stressing the importance of building a nurturing environment for children, Mr. Youssouf recommends that alternative forms of discipline be used in place of corporal punishment to respond better to student’s educational and psychological needs.

“Students, teachers, and parents alike share the goal of orderly, disciplined classrooms in which students can learn. Hence, there is a pressing need to replace corporal punishment with positive discipline, which encourages children to develop self-control, confidence and respect for others through an ongoing educational process using non-violent approaches”, he stresses.

Positive discipline benefits children

The Ministry of Education, HELP University College and UNICEF’s “Teacher Education Project” is one such alternative that aims to equip teachers in Malaysia with the knowledge and skills necessary to manage and discipline their classes without the use of physical and psychological violence.

A follow-up of a previous project that ran from 2006 to 2007 titled “Increasing Psychosocial Wellbeing in Schools through Bully Prevention”, this current project will look into the preparation of materials as well as training for teachers to use alternative models of discipline instead of corporal punishment as a means of disciplining students, while conducting bullying intervention programs.

"Children will correct themselves if you engage them in positive reinforcement,” Mr. Youssouf affirms. “With the right resources and approaches, schools can find effective alternatives to corporal punishment that will bring benefits to children and the society they live in”.



Indra Kumari Nadchatram
(603) 20959157 • (6) 013 3663452 •





Say No to Violence Against Children

Violence against children: Schools

Factsheets: Positive discipline in schools

Child Protection: Malaysia

Real lives: Violence in schools


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