The 2012 academic year saw 6,721 teachers at 4,152 schools nationwide use corporal punishment on 14,208 students, 20 percent of whom suffered some form of injury, an education ministry survey shows.
Earlier this year, and for the first time, the ministry ordered a comprehensive survey on corporal punishment covering not only public but also national and private schools. The findings were released Friday.
The move was prompted by the suicide of a student at Sakuranomiya High School in Osaka after he was subjected to physical punishment by a teacher. The boy captained the school’s basketball team and the instructor was his coach, who, it was later revealed, had repeatedly abused him.
The latest findings far outnumber the results of past ministry polls covering only public schools that showed that just 400 teachers per year were reprimanded or otherwise punished for meting out corporal punishment.
Cases of relatively light physical punishment, which were hard to detect in the past surveys, came to light through the first-ever questionnaires carried out on schoolchildren and their parents, boosting the total figures, the ministry said.
Education minister Hakubun Shimomura described the latest results as “disgraceful,” adding, “I take the results seriously and doubt that previous checks and reports were conducted thoroughly.”
Shimomura said the ministry plans to continue the surveys and strengthen efforts to eradicate corporal punishment in schools.
The instructors who dished out such punishment in the school year that ended in March accounted for 0.58 percent of all teachers nationwide. Among them, 2,805 worked at junior high schools, 2,272 at high schools and 1,559 at elementary schools.
Of the remainder, 11 teachers were employed at six-year junior high and high schools, 47 at schools for disabled students, and 27 at vocational high schools.
Of the 5,415 teachers who inflicted corporal punishment in public schools, or 80 percent of the total, 162 have been disciplined. The abusive Osaka basketball coach was eventually fired.
At elementary schools, 60 percent of corporal punishment cases took place during class. By contrast, 40 percent of the junior high and high school incidents occurred during club activities, while slightly more than 20 percent happened in the classroom.
The most common form was teachers striking students with their bare hands, accounting for 60 percent of the total cases. Kicking came next, at 10 percent, followed by punching and kicking, and striking students with a stick or other object.
Over 80 percent of corporal punishment cases did not result in injuries. But physical abuse by 40 teachers did cause physical harm, including fractures and sprains, while 65 instructors caused eardrum damage.
By prefecture, 452 instances of corporal punishment were detected in Nagasaki, followed by 434 in Osaka and 382 in Oita.
Easy conclusions should not be drawn from the results because of differences in survey methods and criteria for corporal punishment, an education ministry official said. The ministry did not disclose separate data for national and private schools to avoid individual schools being identified in areas with limited educational facilities.
Noting that physical punishment may have been accepted to an extent as a “teaching method,” the ministry Friday sent prefectural boards of education a notice to ban the practice and calling for strict reprimands of teachers who resort to the practice.