GES Tools for Positive Discipline in Basic Schools

A filed photo of a Ghanaian student
A filed photo of a Ghanaian student

The Ghana Education Service (GES) is implementing a package of interventions aimed at making all basic schools child friendly. A component of the child friendly school programme is creating a ‘safe protective school environment’. The safe protective school environment package is essentially focused on three violence related behaviours i.e. bullying, sexual harassment and corporal punishment. The negative effects of corporal punishment is making Ghanaians, particularly, more and more committed on the need to bring an end to its practice in Ghanaian schools. Unfortunately, teachers lack the tools and skills to implement disciplinary measures without resorting to corporal punishment. It is within this context that GES with the support of UNICEF has developed a set of tools for implementing positive discipline in schools. 

This toolkit was drafted as a key product of a stakeholder engagement workshop held in February 2016. Participants at the stakeholder’s workshop included GES personnel, UNICEF representatives, teachers, teacher union representatives and NGOs. Key issues likely to have an impact on the implementation of positive discipline tools in Ghana were identified at the stakeholder engagement workshop. These issues, which are listed below, informed the development of the tools and the proposed approach for their implementation.

  1. Key issues from the stakeholder engagement workshop:
  • Teachers may lack the patience required to stay committed to the continued use of positive discipline tools; especially under circumstances where children appear unresponsive to the tools or when the  exhibit extremely provocative behaviour 
  • Teachers may feel like they have been deprived of some degree of power/authority because they can no longer punish corporally
  • Some students may initially see the introduction of positive discipline tools as an opportunity to challenge the authority of the teacher
  • Some teachers may be afraid of losing control of the classroom
  • Due to the high teacher student ratios that exist in Ghanaian schools, their often very busy schedules, and an erroneous perception of corporal punishment as a quicker and less complicated approach some teachers may feel that these tools will make things more difficult and would therefore be less receptive to them
  • Parents that support corporal punishment may disapprove of the introduction of the tools 

The draft toolkit was subsequently pre-tested in Karaga and KEEA districts in the Northern and Central Regions respectively and the feedback incorporated. A workshop was held with all the 10 Regional and the two District Coordinators of Guidance and Counselling as well as the National Unit to validate the toolkit. UNICEF is providing additional support to implement the toolkit in the two districts which will serve as learning centres for the implementation of positive discipline in the country. The data from the districts will feed into the development of a comprehensive toolkit on safe schools.  



2. Rationale behind the Development of the Tools

Corporal punishment as a tool for maintaining discipline in schools has been as old as formal education in the country. The practice relies on the use of harsh punitive measures as a means of establishing a strong deterrence to undesirable behaviour. The Ghana Education Service (GES) has over years taken a number of actions towards making the school environment safe from violence – which includes corporal punishment. For instance, in the Head teachers’ handbook (1994), provision was made for the conditions that may require corporal punishment and the mechanisms for administering the punishment. The 2010 revised handbook appears to have proscribed corporal punishment with this statement: ‘In your attempt to punish any pupil you should remember ….. Illegal punishment, violence, abuses and brutal acts against pupils are offences for which the teacher can be prosecuted in a court of law’ (Source: Head teachers’ Handbook (2010) page 42). Despite the provisions in the 2010 handbook, the use of corporal punishment remains a preferred tool for disciplining school children. 

Apart from the physical pain corporal punishment inflicts on children, this approach also causes significant emotional damage. Some of the lasting effects of this method of disciplining school children include physical scars, emotional scars (trauma, fear, timidity etc.) and violent behaviour.

The disadvantages associated with the use of corporal punishment to discipline children is however not limited to its damaging effect on children.  It has been observed that children subjected to corporal punishment consistently repeat the offences for which they are punished. Some children even end up becoming hardened and more entrenched in their resistance to what they at times perceive as a forceful imposition of behaviours/values that they have not consented to. The focus of these disciplinary tools will be to inculcate desired behaviours into school children.

This will be realized through:

  • Participatory approaches, 
  • Promoting mutual respect between the teacher and student, 
  • Involving children in the setting of values, expected standards of behaviour and disciplinary measures, and  
  • Employing reformative responses to misbehaviour that are commensurate to the offence committed.
  • Levels of Application of the Positive Discipline Tools

One of the biggest shortfalls of corporal punishment that renders it ineffective in many instances is the resort to blanket response for all    types and levels of inappropriate behaviour. This toolkit offers options for effectively applying positive discipline for different forms of misbehaviour and proposes suitable proactive or reactive measure for addressing them. 

Below is the full document on the GES Tools for Positive Discipline in Basic Schools



Leave a Reply