Globally the use of corporal punishment in schools is increasingly
prohibited in law, yet its use continues in many contexts, even where
outlawed. While some may argue that it is an effective and non-harmful
means of instilling discipline, respect and obedience into children,
others point to a series of detrimental effects, including poor academic
performance, low class participation, early drop-out, and declining
psychosocial well-being. The use of corporal punishment and whether it
has lasting impacts on children’s development remains highly contested,
especially given the dearth of data in this area.
This paper draws on longitudinal data from Ethiopia, India, Peru and
Vietnam to examine the prevalence of corporal punishment and what this
means for children in terms of what they most dislike about being at
school. It also uses regression analysis to explore predictors of
corporal punishment, as well as its effects on children’s cognitive
development and psychosocial well-being.
- Corporal punishment is highly prevalent despite legal prohibition.
More than half of children aged 8 in Peru and Vietnam, three-quarters
in Ethiopia and almost all children in India witnessed a teacher
administering corporal punishment in the last week.
- Violence in schools, including physical and verbal abuse by teachers
and peers, is the foremost reason children give for disliking school.
- Boys are significantly more likely to experience corporal punishment
than girls. However, girls are often at greater risk of other forms of
humiliating treatment and sexual violence.
- Children from poorer households are significantly more likely to be
punished than their better-off peers.
- Corporal punishment affects children’s learning levels: Corporal
punishment negatively affects children’s maths scores at age 8 and
corporal punishment experienced at age 8 negatively affects children’s
maths scores at age 12 in India, Peru and Vietnam. The average
negative effect is of similar size to the caregiver (usually mother)
having about three to six years less education.
Corporal punishment not only violates children’s fundamental rights to
dignity and bodily integrity but can have long-lasting implications for
their life-chances by reducing their engagement with schooling and
capacity to learn. Legislation, teacher training, addressing gender and
social norms and greater international and national prioritisation to
tackle violence affecting children should all play a part in building
safe, supportive and enabling environments for all children to flourish.
Ogando Portela, M.J.; Pells, K. Corporal Punishment in Schools: Longitudinal Evidence from Ethiopia, India, Peru and Viet Nam. UNICEF Office of Research, Florence, Italy (2015) 48 pp. [Innocenti Discussion Paper No. 2015-02]
Corporal Punishment in Schools: Longitudinal Evidence from Ethiopia, India, Peru and Viet Nam