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Understanding, action, and the use of the cane in Sri Lankan schools

Chathurika Sewwandi Kannangara (The Department of Psychology, The University of Bolton, Bolton, UK)
David Griffiths (The Institute for Educational Cybernetics, The University of Bolton, Bolton, UK)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 3 November 2014




The purpose of this paper is to consider the use of corporal punishment in schools in Sri Lanka, and to offer reflections on how cybernetics could shed light on its persistence despite initiatives to ban it.


The ASC 2013 Heinz von Foerster Award for the most significant contribution to the conference was awarded following discussion of the use of the cane in Sri Lankan schools. This paper provides a personal account of difficulties in overcoming the use of corporal punishment in a school in Sri Lanka.


The Sri Lankan education system is introduced. The response of the ASC 2013 is discussed. The feedback between social forces and the education system is seen as being too complex for analysis, and Bateson's conception of ethos is proposed as an appropriate starting point for making progress on this issue.

Social implications

The use of corporal punishment has been forbidden by the Ministry of Education, but the practice evidently continues and there is evidence that this has negative impact on young people. The paper offers an approach to understanding the reasons for the prevalence and persistence of corporal punishment, as a first step towards designing measures to eliminate it.


The paper takes a new approach to understanding the persistence of corporal punishment in Sri Lanka by applying Bateson's concepts of ethos and schismogenesis.



Kannangara, C.S. and Griffiths, D. (2014), "Understanding, action, and the use of the cane in Sri Lankan schools", Kybernetes, Vol. 43 No. 9/10, pp. 1346-1353.



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