2003 saw a record number of public school teachers axed for obscene acts or unauthorized levels of corporal punishment, according to the government.

A record 494 public school teachers were disciplined in the school year for inflicting corporal punishment. The figure was up by 43 from the previous record, set the previous year, the education ministry said, citing reports provided by the nation’s schools — a practice that started in 1977.

A record 196 teachers at public elementary, junior high and high schools were fired in disgrace or received other punishment for committing obscene acts, up by 21 from the figure for 2002.

The number of teachers on sick leave surged by 714 to a record 6,017, including 3,194 who reportedly suffered “distress,” up 507. The number of those suffering distress tripled from a decade ago.

The 196 teachers punished over obscene acts included 107 who were fired, 19 who were “asked to resign” and 40 who were suspended. Four were reprimanded with a pay cut and another four received warnings. Of the fired teachers, 61 got the ax for obscene acts committed against a combined 103 students directly in their charge.

Obscene acts include indecent assault, molestation and sexual harassment of colleagues and students, and engaging in acts of prostitution, although not necessarily with students, the ministry said.

Among those punished for administering corporal punishment, including punching and kicking, which is banned under the Fundamental Law on Education, one teacher was fired and another was told to resign. There were also 21 teachers suspended, 71 given pay cuts and 81 issued warnings.

There were 200 teachers punished for disobeying school orders to stand and sing the national anthem or for opposing the display of the national flag at school ceremonies.