Promoting positive discipline in school

An Op-ed by Lesley Miller, UNICEF Acting Representative in Viet Nam

20 November 2018
Promoting positive discipline in school
UNICEF Viet Nam\Truong Viet Hung

Teachers hold the keys to a better future for all. They inspire, challenge and empower innovative and responsible global citizens. They get children into school, keep them there and help them learn. Every day, they help to build the cognitive capital Viet Nam needs for tomorrow and the century ahead. On Vietnamese Teachers’ Day, UNICEF wishes to thank teachers for their dedication to children’s learning.

Nothing can replace a good teacher. As we’ve heard from a 14-year old girl from the Nung ethnic group in Lao Cai province “I really like my History teacher, Mr. Trung. He never scolds us when we make mistakes in class. Instead, he gently explains it again, so that we can learn from our mistakes without feeling ashamed and scared.”

Unfortunately, not all children have the same experience with their teachers. Corporal punishment, together with other forms of discipline that involve verbal abuse, are still a regular part of the school experience for many children in the country. The use of this method and tolerance towards it persist due to a belief that corporal punishment is an effective way of educating children.

In Viet Nam, corporal punishment in school has been prohibited by the Law on Education since 2005, nevertheless it continues to be practiced. A 2015 study by UNICEF revealed that over half of Vietnamese students dislike school due to violence, including physical and verbal abuse by teachers and peers. 

More recently, UNICEF Viet Nam has conducted a quick U-Report survey on the theme of corporal punishment by teachers and other adults in school. The poll showed that among 417 respondents, 34% were victim of verbal abuse more than once, 59% witnessed such scenes in school over the last 12 months. Regarding physical punishment, 18% reported having experienced this form of discipline more than once, while 37% of students polled say they have witnessed it.

Corporal punishment is not an appropriate way to discipline children. It scares children, makes them sad, feel humiliated and confused, and can potentially lead them to become aggressive in return. Violent discipline and its negative impacts, such as low academic performance, poor school attendance, and school dropout, affect children’s psychosocial well-being. It can have severe, long-lasting consequences on a child’s future. Eliminating violence in schools, can give children back the desire to learn in a peaceful and conducive school environment.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is clear that no type of violence against children can ever be justified. Fortunately, there are solutions. UNICEF is collaborating with the Ministry of Education and Training to establish measures to prevent violence from happening and to respond to it when it occurs. This includes the creation of accessible and confidential ways for students to report any act of violence at school, without fear of reprisal. We are also working together to develop the concept of “positive discipline” in Viet Nam. This is an approach which gives teachers and care givers the tools and skills they need to teach children appropriate behaviours and pro-actively prevent misbehaviour before it starts.

Today, we call on everyone to join us in thanking and supporting teachers of Viet Nam, especially role models like Mr. Trung who are responsible for creating a conducive, enabling and safe learning environment for our children. There is no stronger foundation for sustainable development than quality education, provided by well-trained and motivated teachers who are understanding, empathic, encouraging and respectful.

Media contacts

Ms Raquel Fernandez
Chief of Communication and Advocacy
Tel: +84 (024) 3850 0100
Tel: +84 (0)98 549 9748


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit

Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook