Tuesday is English day. At morning assembly, I present a word of the day, poem, or tongue-twister. Today I bring Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost to read.

I hear the BM speeches in the courtyard and go out there to see when I should read the poem. All the students are assembled as usual and the principal is talking. One-by-one students come to the stage and the principal delivers a loud slap to their shoulder. His hand goes back a full foot-and-a-half in preparation and comes down hard on each boy. My friend, the religion teacher, walks up:

“Good morning, Miss Christy! Why so sad today?”

“They are hitting the students. In my country we do not do this in school.”

“Oh, not so bad-lah! These students are very naughty, they need discipline.”

“But maybe you do not need to hit them? If you hit students, will they get good grades? Maybe they will only learn to hit other people.”

“These students always late. They cannot respect our rule. We must teach them to be good.”

“Maybe you help me understand. If adult hits student when student is bad, then when student is adult they might think it is okay to hit their wife or child.”

“No, no, it is okay to hit them. Does not hurt.”

“What about the girls?”

“Oh, we only hit girls a little. Just small. We do same as police! If someone is bad, police must beat them. See, quite normal!”

“Oh, no police only beat people so that they will not harm them. Not for punishment. They might hit them and then take them to jail, but they do not use beatings as punishment.”

“No, no, no I have seen on American news, yes, police do beat people for punishment sometimes.”

I walk back to the English office. Two other English teachers are there. We are close and I feel I can ask them to help me understand cultural differences.

“I saw that today they are hitting the students for punishment. I talked with ____ and he told me it’s okay, it is normal here.”

“Yes…here it is quite normal. It is written in our teacher handbook that when students are not disciplined we must hit them. The Ministry of Education recommends this. Ask any student and they will tell you it does not hurt.”


“And actually, we do not even hit them. What is the word?…yes, caning.”