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Poor discipline in South African schools: Has it undermined teacher authority and academic achievement?

Title: Poor discipline in South African schools: Has it undermined teacher authority and academic achievement?

First and main author: Noorullah Shaikhnag  – Noorullah.Shaikhnag@nwu.ac.za
Id orcid.org/ 0000-0002 1423 7696
Senior lecturer — Deputy Director, North West University, Faculty of Education — Mafikeng campus
B Com (UDW-UKZN), BEd, MED, PhD (Educational Psychology, NWU).

Co-author: Dr Shantha Naidoo – Shantha.Naidoo@nwu.ac.za
ID ORCID:https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8107-6493
North-West University, South Africa: Potchefstroom, North West, ZA
Lecturer: Life Orientation, Sub Area Leader: Edu-HRight (Bio-Psychosocial Perspectives)
MED (Learner Support), PhD (Educational Leadership and Management, UJ).
Member of Senate

Co-author: Professor Anna-Marie (AMF) Pelser — anna.pelser@hotmail.com
iD orcid.org/0000-0001-8401-3893
Research Professor, North-West University, Faculty of Economic and Financial Sciences- Entity Director — GIFT, Mafikeng Campus.
HED (Home Economics, PU for CHE), B Com (UNISA), B Com Hons (PU for CHE), M Com (Industrial Psychology, NWU), PhD (Education Management, NWU)
Corresponding author Prof. A.M.F. Pelser — ampelser@hotmail.com

Ensovoort, volume 41 (2020), number 11: 2

Abstract

School officials and policymakers usually rely on personal anecdotes to argue that corporal punishment in schools improves student behaviour, achievement and teacher authority. In the North West province of South Africa, academic achievement in relation to disciplinary measures has not received much attention. The purpose of this study was therefore to investigate the effects of poor discipline due to the abolition of corporal punishment on teacher authority and school achievement.  In view of this, a sample of 400 learners and 100 teachers using 10 high schools in an educational region of the North West Province of South Africa was selected using random sampling and a survey approach to data collection. In contrast to the perceptions as identified in the literature review which revealed that the abolition of corporal punishment would probably lead to poor discipline, decrease in teacher authority and academic achievement, the research findings, particularly the application of the chi-square test, indicated no positive relationship between the abolition of corporal punishment, poor discipline, teacher authority and academic progress in the sampled schools. The main recommendation therefore is that alternative forms of disciplinary measures are necessary to supplement corporal punishment, as its use can at times be valuable in order to minimise misconduct among learners and possibly strengthen teacher authority and improve scholastic achievement.

Key concepts: Discipline, Misconduct, Academic achievement, Corporal punishment; Teacher authority.

1. Introduction and Background 

The abolition of corporal punishment in schools has made it virtually impossible to maintain discipline in the classroom and twenty years down the line teachers complain that since beating learners with canes has been outlawed, educators have little or no authority in classrooms as they have no other way of enforcing discipline in the classroom (Kubheka, 2019, Salem, 2013). Discipline in a positive sense refers to learning, regulated scholarship, guidance and orderliness, and may therefore qualify as an integral part of an effective educational endeavour in which parents and teachers give assistance to a learner seeking help (Stenhouse, 2015), while on the other hand, trying to maintain good conduct, violence must be avoided.

The situation in South African schools currently seems to suggest that a lack of discipline and increase in violence especially among high school students has led to teacher authority being undermined, hence poor learning and teaching take place in schools, this affects the lives of both teachers and learners (Makhasane & Chikoko, 2016; Mthanti & Mncube, 2014). Principals in the North West Province of South Africa also point out that bullying, assault and fighting among learners are the most common types of misconduct in schools. Research conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reveals that corporal punishment is less effective than other methods of behaviour management in schools, while praise, discussions about value systems and positive role models play a more important part in developing character, respect for educators and values than corporal punishment. This research further indicates that corporally punishing learners leads to several adverse outcomes such as increased aggressive and destructive behaviour, vandalism, poor school achievement, poor attention span, low self-esteem, depression, retaliation against teachers, undermining teacher authority and swearing at them (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2020, Ramadwa, 2020).

2. Problem statement

Research indicates that authority should be established by teachers showing a learner-centred approach which can be achieved by permitting the learners to voice their opinions (Keiler, 2018; Meador, 2019). In order to achieve this, a five-point paradigm indicating sources of power or authority can be used viz., reward which is the ability to give positive feedback in the form of points or comments; coercive authority, where learners are penalised for poor conduct; legitimate power which is associated with authority to set up laws; referent power which stems from learners’ respect for the educator and finally expert authority which is derived from the ability of the educator to show skills in the subject he/she teaches (Bhasin, 2019, Brame, 2016).

Thus, for teachers to maintain peace and order in classrooms, they need to have authority (Esmaeili, Mohamadrezai & Mohamedrezai, 2015). Debates based on religious, social and cultural values on the other hand seem to suggest that it is essential to punish children physically because it helps to inculcate the values of society, good conduct, discipline and respect for teacher authority since the abolition of corporal punishment is tantamount to loosening the teachers’ grip on the learners. The inference here is that, if used correctly, this type of punishment brings about an immediate decrease in bad behaviour, produces respect for authority, obedience and self-discipline (Sekhonyane, 2018). However, no absolute certainty exists with regard to the claim that corporal punishment will improve learner behaviour and mental soundness (Bassam, Marianne, Rabba & Gerbaka, 2018, Russo 2015). As education involves the transfer of knowledge, values and ideals from one generation to another through the guidance of authoritative teachers, it is important that they be recognised as authority figures for the information they impart (Carr, 2019, Kitchen & McCloed, 2016). A study conducted by Chafi, Khouzai and Ouchouid (2016) emphasises the importance of exercising authority which is a routine feature of most teacher-learner interactions, hence classroom discipline is the core of educational authority as it guarantees obedience and acceptance from learners.

With this in mind, this article intends to shed light on and provide insight into the experiences encountered by teachers and learners due to the abolition of corporal punishment. The study, the findings of which this article reports, is aimed at exploring the undermining of teacher authority and its possible effect on academic progress as a result of the abolition of corporal punishment in South African schools.

3. Corporal punishment, discipline and authority in South African schools

Corporal punishment is and will always remain an emotional and controversial issue for many within South African schools as well as schools world-wide (Goodman, 2020, Naong, 2007). Although opposition is strong, corporal punishment still has some persuasive arguments for it (Josphine, 2018). However, in recent times, there has been international condemnation of physical punishment since it is morally degrading, which impacts negatively on the teacher-learner relationship (Holinger, 2018, Islam, 2019).

The view remains that banning physical punishment totally is pointless, arbitrary and destructive and it makes criminals of parents and teachers who are doing their best to raise the next generation. Physical punishment is thus good and works for the development of resilient people living in this world. Outlawing it completely, will break down the foundation of society and undermine teacher authority, the argument being that without corporal punishment, discipline will not be maintained, learners will not show respect to the teachers, will not work hard unless they are punished or threatened with punishment and the powers of educators will be taken away and will lead to a loss in prestige of the teachers (Alsaif, 2015; Kambuga, Manyengo & Mbalamula, 2018, Seidal, 2018). Thus in terms of classroom and teaching methods, it is important to note that teacher success will depend on the time allotted to learner activities of a practical nature (Nazari, 2014; Weiss, 2014).

For education to take place without interference, the educator must assume the position of authority which must be accepted by the learner and this authority is important for effective teaching, hence maintaining strict discipline is extremely important for learners’ academic performance (Fakhruddin, 2018, Simba, Agak & Kabuka, 2016).

Research in South Africa shows that schools continue to administer corporal punishment to curtail misconduct among learners even for minor offences, and more than half (55.6%) of those learners interviewed in 2016 had been subjected to physical punishment for bad behaviour (Rohrs, 2016). This means that the practice of corporal punishment has not diminished and teachers surveyed believed that it was necessary since it instilled in them a sense of authority and control which in turn helped with better learner achievement (Bailey, Robinson & Core- Desai, 2104; Josephine, 2018; Odhiambo, 2017, Shologu, 2012). Tozer (2012) and Perez-Izaguirre (2019) indicate that the use of violence is an issue of power and this type of authoritarian leadership style often creates resentment and hostility, which have been associated with learners dropping out of school and detracting from student achievement, consequently, schools should provide learners with an educational foundation to build successful independent lifestyles and maintain discipline which will lead to effective learning (Kelly, 2020; Makhubele, 2014). Through its constitution, South Africa is among several countries committed to abolishing corporal punishment of learners, thus being beaten is not a normal practice any longer (Govender & Sookrajh, 2014). In view of this, Frechette & Romano (2015) believe that, though corporal punishment may be highly prevalent, legal reforms and public education efforts to limit it will result in a decrease in its use. Despite this, as pointed out earlier, it should be remembered that teacher authority and class discipline are imperative to the student-teacher relationship and to overall teaching effectiveness and extremely important in maintaining effective classroom management (Haley & Ferro, 2012; Hanson, 2013; Molina and Martin, 2017). Authority thus is the establishment of a two-way relationship between the givers and receivers of orders, hence teacher authority is a key element in maintaining a functional class that strengthens student results (Barile, 2019; George, Sakirudeen & Sunday, 2017).

Those who advocate corporal punishment argue that the ever-growing disregard for authority among the youth stems from the abolition of physical punishment both at home and at school, hence the belief that teachers no longer have authority since it denotes abuse and repression (Goodman, 2020). However, many psychologists assert that authority is a viable concept and a function of social enhancement demonstrated by leaders in an open society. Teacher authority is thus consequential in the teaching–learning situation and the teacher must always be above the level of the learner, hence strict discipline is imperative for the safety of all learners and their educational achievement (Matsitsa, 2008, Sharma, 2020). Many educators therefore still use corporal punishment as a means to control learners, believing that this type of punishment can rectify student behaviour which ultimately will bring about respect for the teacher and uphold his/her dignity (Ntuli & Machaisa, 2014).

As it is unethical to physically punish learners according to section 10 of the Schools Act no. 84 of 1996. The then Minister of Education, designed a comprehensive document entitled ‘Alternatives to Corporal Punishment.’ (ATCP). Disciplinary measures to be taken in South African schools are clearly outlined in different levels, and with the dawn of democracy in South Africa, emphasis is placed on protecting and respecting learners’ rights, posit Maphosa & Shumba (2010). This is supported by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2020) who reveal that corporal punishment is less effective than other methods of instilling discipline at schools. The demerits are far greater than the advantages, hence schools should not use it as a means to try and expedite scholastic achievement (Frankie, 2020).

However, in recent times, though schools have shown a tendency to use alternative measures of punishment such as in-school suspension and after-school detention, a study conducted by Moyo, Khewu and Bayaga (2014) suggests that there is no established consistency prevailing between disciplinary practices in schools and the ATCP strategies. This study showed that teachers do not believe in alternate measures to corporal punishment and this was due to a lack of understanding in respect of ATCP. However, if achieved and implemented correctly it could be highly desirable (Gunderson & McKay, 2018).

4. Research, Design and Methodology

4.1 Research paradigm

The post-positivist paradigm was used to contextualise the research and was based on the assumptions that all knowledge is conjectural; hence knowledge is subject to supposition since the absolute truth cannot be established; also research is a process of making claims, refining them to accommodate other claims that require more attention. It must also be noted that post-positivism is not a form of relativism, hence can retain the idea of objective truth.  (Creswell, 2016). The data was collected using the quantitative method and was underpinned by a post-positivistic research theory whose assumptions represent the traditional form of research.

 4.2 Research Design and Approach

Status of the phenomena, tracing changes and drawing comparisons were undertaken using the survey design. In this research, use of the survey approach enabled the researcher to obtain information on the respondents’ opinions and beliefs related to the null hypothesis tested (Maree, 2012; Bryman, 2015, Showkat, 2017).

Empirical observation and measurement were utilised to determine the effects of poor discipline due to the abolition of corporal punishment on teacher authority and scholastic achievement. Thus it became apparent that using the quantitative method in analysing data would be best suited for the study since this approach involves collecting numerical data which are objective and not influenced in any way by the researchers’ prejudice (Eyisi, 2016, Steefkerk, 2020).

4.3 Population Sampling

The target population was high schools in one educational region of the North West Province (n=40) and it was selected with the assistance of the Area Project Office regional managers. The findings of the study are therefore valid for schools in this region only.

Simple random sampling was used and the sample size was twenty schools (n=20). In total, 400 questionnaires were distributed to 400 students and 100 were handed out to educators. The response rate was 90% for learners and 95% for educators.

Table 1: Population and Sample

Schools in one region of NW Number of students Educators Number of schools selected Learners selected ranged from Grade 8-12 Educators ranged from age group 25-45 and teaching experience ranged from 5-25 years
40 1200 300 20 400 100

4.4 Data collection methods

Based on the evidence at it was inferred that the best way of gathering information directly from respondents would be using a structured questionnaire. This method is based on a set of questions with fixed wording and indicators of how to answer each question, hence a structured closed ended questionnaire using a the four (4) point Likert scale was used since it is characterised by choices between alternative responses that are given (Strongly agree, Agree, Disagree and Strongly disagree). A self-constructed questionnaire with fifteen items was used (Burns & Bush, 2014, Jovancic, 2019, Kumar, 2016). The instrument was pilot-tested to ensure that the research design is iteratively improved and the research runs smoothly. Thirty learners from three schools Grade 8-12 and 10 educators were used in the pilot study. Data can be broadened and classified easily using this type of a questionnaire and the possible responses are limited.

The researcher personally handed out the questionnaires which had the advantage that the purpose of the study could be explained before any attempt was made by the respondents to answer the questions. The collection of most questionnaires was done immediately, except a small number which were collected at a later stage due to tests being written at some schools. 

4.5 Data Processing/Data analysis procedures

Computer-aided statistical analysis was employed in the form of calculating percentages, means, frequencies and the chi square by means of meta-analysis (Guererro, 2019). If the P-value is less than the significant level, usually 0.05, the hypotheses are rejected (Prabakharan, 2016).

These results were achieved with the help of a senior lecturer employed by the statistics department at the North West University.

4.6 Ethical considerations and trustworthiness issues

Ethical guidelines were followed, which included guaranteeing confidentiality and anonymity of the respondents. Permission to carry out this investigation was granted by the Provincial Department of Education and further consent was given by the principals and school governing bodies to conduct the research at their respective schools themselves as well as from their legally authorised guardians where applicable. This was necessary to prove that all respondents were taking part in the research voluntarily (Ragin & Amoroso 2013). To establish the reliability of the instrument, Cronbach’s alpha coefficient was calculated for the questionnaire dealing with teacher authority and abolition of corporal punishment; the result of 0.801 suggests that it was more than satisfactory (refer Table 2 below).

Table: 2 Cronbach Alpha

Variable N Mean STD Dev Cronbach’s Comment
School 20 500 3.75 1.27 0.801 Good & consistent

5. Findings

5.1 Abolition of Corporal punishment and effect on discipline, teacher authority and student achievement

Table 3 below presents the responses to the questionnaire relating to abolition of corporal punishment and teacher authority. The respondents were requested to respond to fifteen statements with regard to the above. They were asked to rate each item on a scale of 1 to 4 (1 =Strongly Agree, 2=Agree, 3=Disagree, 4=Strongly Disagree) 

Statements Strongly agree   Agree Disagree Strongly disagree Total
Poor discipline is prevalent since the abolition of corporal punishment (CP), hence   teachers have no authority to reprimand them which may affect learner results. 43 (8.9%) 146 (30.1%) 166 (34.1%) 130 (26.8% 485
Refusing to mark late submission of work does not improve their attitude towards teachers and could lead to poor performance. 115 (23.7%)

 

226 (36.6%) 89 (18.4%) 55 (11.3%) 485
No serious discussions take place with learners who do not submit their work on time because they have no regard for teacher authority. This affects learner progress. 204 (42.0%)  184 (37.9%) 87 (17.9%)  11 (2.3%) 486
Since the abolition of CP, teachers do not reprimand lazy learners because their authority is undermined, which could result in poor academic achievement. 170 (35.1%) 185 (38.2%) 106 (21.7%) 23 (4.8%) 484
Teachers should use sarcasm to ridicule the offending learner. This will help to improve learner conduct. 23 (4.8%) 113 (23.6%) 223 (46.6%) 120 (25.1%) 479
Teachers have no power to insult learners who do not do their work, this increases poor discipline and ultimately leads to poor results. 33 (6.85%) 86 (17.7%) 121 (24.9%) 246 (50.6%) 486
Since the banning of CP, teachers have no right to exclude the lazy culprit from the group as their authority is undermined. 91 (18.8%) 206 (42.5%) 115 (23.5%) 73 (15.1%) 485
Teachers cannot refuse privileges to the offending learner since they have little authority to do so. This further enhances poor discipline. 49 (10.2%) 226 (47.8%) 163 (33.9%) 43 (8.9%) 481
Reintroduction of CP will make the culprit change his attitude towards work and teacher, hence improve his behaviour and scholastic achievement. 109 (22.4%) 150 (30.9%) 107 (27.0%) 120  (24.7%) 486
Punching, pinching and knocking on the head could help learners to respect the teacher and improve their attitude towards work. 13 (2.7%) 76  (15.7%) 107 (22.1%) 289 (59.6%) 485
Teachers’ powers are unlimited, hence they can give the offender extra work during break which can help to change attitudes towards the teacher and work. 16 (3.3%) 21   (4.3%) 186 (38.4%) 262 54.0%) 485
Learners do not like being given more work in class as they undermine teacher authority and this leads to poor results in the examinations. 69  (14.3%) 201 (41.7%) 166 (34.4%) 46 (9.5%) 482
Since the outlawing of CP, teacher authority is not respected as learners do not accept detention orders anymore, this does not help the disciplinary process. 71 (14.6%)

 

278 (57.2%) 188 (22.2%) 29 (6.0%) 486
Teachers have no power to chase the culprit out of the class, this aggravates teacher disrespect and could lead ultimately to unacceptable academic achievement. 50 (10.4%) 220 (45.9%) 172 (35.9%) 37 (7.7%) 479
Teacher authority is undermined by learners since CP is no longer applicable, hence they refuse to take any form of advice which aggravates misconduct and poor achievement. 49 (10.2%) 226  (47%)

 

163 (33.9%) 43 (8.95%) 481
           

 Figure 1: Teacher and learner responses with regard to corporal punishment and its effect on poor discipline, teacher authority and academic achievement.

The analysis indicates that 39% of the respondents believed that teacher authority was undermined because they had no power to reprimand learners, while 61% indicated to the contrary. 61% indicated that refusing to mark late submission of work does not improve learners’ attitude towards teachers, hence teacher authority is undermined. 79.9% of the respondents believed that teachers do not have serious discussions with learners regarding non-submission of work because teachers do not have much authority due to CP being outlawed. Furthermore, 73.3% asserted that teachers do not reprimand lazy learners because their authority is undermined, while 26.7% believed to the contrary. Only 28.4% indicated that teachers do not have the power to use sarcasm to ridicule learners, while the majority said they had the power to do so. 75.5% of respondents pointed out that teachers had no power to insult learners who do not do their work, hence teacher authority is seriously undermined which in turn could affect academic achievement. 61.3% of the participants said that teachers do not exclude lazy learners from the group as they have no right to do so. 57.2% agreed that teachers cannot refuse privileges to the offending learners as his/her authority is limited. 53.3% argued that reintroduction of CP will not change student attitude towards the educator. 81.7% concurred that punching, pinching and other kinds of action will not help learners to respect the teacher. Only 7.6% accepted the fact that teachers’ powers are not limited, but 92.4% believed that they have limited power to give extra work. 56% agreed that students do not like being given more work as they undermine teacher authority. 72.2% believe that teacher authority is not respected any longer since learners do not accept detention orders. 56.3% of respondents indicated that teachers no longer have power to chase students out of the class and finally, 57.2% concur that teacher authority is undermined since the abolition of CP as learners refuse to take any form of advice from them.

5.2 Relationship between abolishing of corporal punishment and teacher authority

Based on the findings of the study, it is evident that the abolition of corporal punishment played a part in undermining teacher authority and learner progress as applied at schools. However, the chi-square test applied to the findings confirms an insignificant relationship between the abolition of corporal punishment, the undermining of teacher authority and learner progress at schools. Consequently there was no need to reject the null hypothesis; this suggests that there was no significant relationship between the abolition of corporal punishment and the undermining of educator authority and academic achievement (see Table 4).

Although the data, taken at face value, indicated that the abolition of physical punishment did have an effect on teacher authority, discipline and learner achievement, the chi-square test applied to the data indicated to the contrary, hence the failure to reject the null hypothesis. As the Pearson chi-square (P value) value was 0.453 greater than 0.05 which is the significant point (Table 4), the null hypothesis could not be rejected. Acceptance of the null hypothesis implied that the abolition of corporal punishment did not play a major role in influencing teacher authority/academic achievement although the literature survey indicates to the contrary.

Table 4: Chi-squared tests

a.
Value df Asymp. Sig. (2-sided) Exact Sig. (2-sided) Exact Sig. (1-sided)
Pearson Chi-Square 563a 1 .453
Continuity Correctionb .000 1 1000
Likelihood Ratio .872 1 .350
Fisher’s Exact Test 1000 .667
Linear-by-Linear Association .500 1 .480
N of Valid Cases 9

Table 4 results indicate that 3 cells (75.0%) have expected a count less than 5. The minimum expected count is .33. This means that the null hypothesis could not be rejected, hence the implication that abolition of corporal punishment did not have an influence on teacher authority and student achievement. 

6. Discussion

From the findings above it would seem that teacher authority and academic achievement is undermined by the abolition of corporal punishment in schools and schools are subject to poor discipline which can impact negatively on teacher attitude as well as academic performance of learners (Foncha, Ngoqo, Mafumo &Maruma, 2018) and teachers themselves have acknowledged that they have lost a great deal of authority. Thus, tensions between teachers and learners in recent times are evidence of the difficulties experienced by educators to be recognised as teachers in charge. (Gallego, Villalabos, Lopez & Girald, 2016). This is corroborated by a study conducted by McGarr, O’Grady and Guilifoyle (2016) which suggests that educators complain about poor behaviour of learners, that they lack respect, that they disobey them and even refuse to accept their requests. This is indicative of the fact that 79.9% of the respondents said that no discussions take place between teachers and students and 73.3% believed that teachers do not reprimand learners for non-submission of work as they have very little authority to do it and 61.3% respondents asserted that teachers have no power to be strict in respect of lazy learners. This is corroborated by (Nakpodia) 2014, as well as Case (2017) who maintain that teachers are being threatened by students and that these threats are so severe that teachers cannot carry out their normal duties which leads to an unstable learning environment. This is further supported by a study in Spain where 65% of teachers have difficulty attending class due to poor learner behaviour (Molina & Martin 2017). Teacher authority is often in question as they are frequently tested by learners, teachers become helpless and find it difficult to maintain discipline which in turn has a negative impact on learner achievement (Furedi, 2016, Semali &Vumilla, 2016). This is indicative of the fact that 92.4% of respondents acknowledged that teachers’ powers were not unlimited to give extra work and 71.8% believed that teacher authority is undermined as learners do not accept detention orders anymore, while 56.3% asserted that teachers no longer have authority to chase misbehaving students out of the class, this in turn affects discipline and learner progress. In order to maintain good classroom behaviour, many teachers are therefore of the opinion that the judicious use of corporal punishment is essential and teachers should take punishment seriously especially since they do not have sufficient alternative measures to deal effectively with student misconduct. Thus, it can be asserted that the abolition of physical punishment is a mistake since it leads to poor discipline which undermines teacher authority, teaching commitments and ultimately leads to poor learner progress (Goddard, 2017, Shaikhnag, Assan & Loate 2015). On the other hand, local as well as international studies have shown that the use of corporal punishment has led to aggressive and more disruptive behaviour in classrooms, vandalism, decrease in academic achievement, poor attention span, aversion for school, depression and antagonism towards educators (Chauke 2014, Poulsen 2015). 81.7% of respondents suggested that punching, pinching and clubbing on the heads will lead to greater undermining of teacher authority and 51.7% argued that reintroduction of corporal punishment will not improve discipline and learner attitude towards work. This is enhanced by international studies which have linked corporal punishment to increased ill-discipline, aggressive behaviour, vandalism, poor academic achievement and total disrespect for teacher authority (Gershoff & Gregan-Kaylor, 2016). However, this can be minimised by teachers applying appropriate behaviour as indicated by 61% of the respondents who indicated that teachers should not refuse to mark late submission of work and 71.6% who viewed sarcasm in a very negative way. This will certainly help learners to be self-reflective of their own conduct, hence good classroom management can minimise challenging behaviour, pupil negativity, bullying and aggression (Department of Education, 2019; Ellis & Tod, 2018).

The empirical data in the study reported here were cross tabulated, and no significant relationship was found between the abolition of corporal punishment in schools and the undermining of teacher authority. Whereas the theoretical analysis of this study seems to suggest that teacher authority was undermined, the chi-squared test applied to the findings suggests no significant relationship existed between the abolition of physical punishment and teacher authority. One reason for this contradiction could be the presence of a possible (and unforeseen) bias inherent in the sample. This bias may have been present despite all efforts to draw a fully representative sample.

7. Conclusion

The chi-squared test applied to the analysed data emphasise that no real connection existed between the abolition of corporal punishment, poor discipline, undermining of teacher authority and academic achievement. (Table 4). However, the theoretical aspects of the study clearly indicate that teachers were undermined by learners. Despite this, teachers and principals are not too keen on using corporal punishment as a means of restoring good behaviour. On the other hand, it must be noted that a school is an important social institution, where certain basic regulations governing, controlling and directing the conduct of learners is essential. Principals in the North West province of South Africa indicated that, bullying, assault and fighting among learners were the most common types of misconduct in schools. Good discipline therefore is the exercise of educational authority that allows learners and educators to work well and ultimately leads to better academic achievements.

8. Recommendations

In the light of the findings and empirical results, the researchers are of the opinion that teachers consider using both the alternate ways of disciplining learners as well as the traditional use of corporal punishment, albeit minimally. The use of alternative measures by teachers will contribute positively to the understanding of learners. Research has shown that alternative ways of dealing with poor discipline has brought about heartening results. On the other hand, some teachers are punitive, rigid and only believe in applying corporal punishment to discipline the child. The modern educationist is however not impressed by such rigidity where there is order, but very little constructive activity on the part of the student. In view of this, we suggest that educationally justifiable measures be put in place such as giving learners good advice and requesting parents to curtail their allowance. Promoting words instead of harsh punitive measures will certainly be useful in developing the mind-set of the learner.

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