Taiwan's Ban on Corporal Punishment- Teachers' Perceptions of Impact and Meanings

Open Access
Chiang, Yi-Ching
Graduate Program:
Educational Leadership
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 13, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Roger C Shouse, Dissertation Advisor
  • Roger C Shouse, Committee Chair
  • James F Nolan Jr., Committee Member
  • Jacqueline A Stefkovich, Committee Member
  • Edgar Paul Yoder, Committee Member
  • corporal punishment
  • school discipline
Corporal punishment was long used in Taiwanese schools as an informal disciplinary tool for improving students’ academic performance as well as for disciplinary violations. Based on thirty-five interviews and three school activity observations across a nationwide sample of junior high teachers and schools, this study examines the impact of Taiwan's 2006 legislative ban on corporal punishment in the educational system. Its purpose is to understand educators’ perceptions of discipline and corporal punishment, current disciplinary practices and problems, and why the practice persists, particularly in junior high schools. Five main themes emerged in this study. First, corporal punishment is a strong traditional informal norm of teaching in Taiwan. Spanking or corporal punishment had been a “normalized” classroom tool –a fairly reliable non-complex response to the highly complex problem of pupil motivation and control. The second theme involves opposition to the ban and continued cautious use of corporal punishment. While most teachers adhere to the ban, with respect to harsher forms of corporal punishment, many continue to view its milder form as a practical tool for pupil control and motivation. The third theme involves support for or indifference to the ban. At the time of the interviews, two thirds of the subjects expressed either supportive or neutral opinions. They either believed in its philosophy or had simply adapted to the ban. As for those teachers with feelings of indifference, they continued their former practices, either using or not using corporal punishment. To them, in the words of one interviewee, this ban was imposed “simply to make some people feel relieved.” The fourth theme is uncertainty. Whether they were opposed to or supported the ban, interviewees generally expressed perceptions of uncertainty, insecurity, or inability to discipline students under the new law. They complained that they only received “formal directives” or “unrealistic guidelines,” rather than practical strategies or advice from the school officials or the Ministry of Education. The last theme involves the shift toward more humanistic forms of pupil control. The changes include viewing students as having individual educational and social needs, a decrease in punishing students for poor academic performance, and using more positive disciplinary strategies. Though corporal punishment is still used, it is much less frequent and abusive than before. The principle that students should not be physically punished by teachers has become a prevailing perspective within a global educational environment. But at the same time, Taiwanese schools must operate and maintain legitimacy within local environments, which serve as a conservative check on global influences. Therefore, using both a functional and institutional framework, this study explores how the conflict between global and local values may complicate school reform efforts.