Preventive or punitive disciplinary measures in South African schools: Which should be favoured?


Disciplinary Measures
Positive Discipline
Preventive Discipline
Punitive Discipline


Recent research shows a major paradigm shift towards preventive and positive rather than punitive disciplinary measures. Since the essence of learner discipline is correctional and educational rather than punitive, this approach seems to be the correct one – especially after the abolition of corporal punishment in South African schools. However, the question remains: is there still room for punitive and reactive learner discipline in our schools? And if so, which is the better approach, and where should the emphasis be? This article endeavours to evaluate the two approaches by means of a normative framework. Rather than ruling which approach is the more successful one, the authors argue that it is not the one or the other, but rather a combination of the two approaches. One of the guiding determinants for correct decision-making is vested in maintaining a safe, harmonious and orderly environment conducive to education and learning. The decision regarding the most effective form of discipline in a particular instance should therefore be determined by the context of the situation. For example, it depends on the seriousness of the misconduct, the attitude of the learners (e.g. was it as a result of intent or negligence?), the age of the learner, the influence it had on the teaching-learning environment, et cetera.

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