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Sep 28, 2011

Lee Kuan Yew Gets a Caning

Raffles Institution c 1940. Photo source: National Archives of Singapore.

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew inspecting the Guard of Honour formed by the Raffles Institution's National Cadet Corps at the school's Founder's Day Ceremony on 6 Jun 1969. Photo source: National Archives of Singapore.

This blog topic "Lee Kuan Yew Gets a Caning" is not intended to be mischievous. Please read on beyond the headline...

It is a chapter from the book "Tales of Old Singapore" by Iain Manley, assembling vignettes of a time past, a Singapore of yesterday as excerpted below:

Lee Kuan Yew Gets a Caning

From The Singapore Story by Lee Kuan Yew, 1994
In my final year, 1935, I came first in [junior] school and won a place in Raffles Institution, which took in only the top students...I enjoyed my years in Raffles Institution. I coped with the work comfortably, was active in the Scout movement, played cricket and some tennis, swam and took part in many debates. But I never became a prefect, let alone head prefect. There was a mischievous, playful streak in me. Too often, I was caught not paying attention in class, scribbling notes to fellow students or mimicking some teacher's strange mannerisms. In the case of a rather ponderous Indian science teacher, I was caught in the laboratory drawing the back of his head with its bald patch.

Once I was caned by the principal. D.W. McLeod was a fair but strict disciplinarian who enforced rules impartially, and one rule was that a boy who was late for school three times during one term would get three strokes of the cane. I was always a late riser, an owl more than a lark, and when I was late for school the third time in a term in 1938, the form master sent me to see McLeod. The principal knew me from the number of prizes I had been collecting on prize-giving days and the scholarships I had won. But I was not let off with an admonition. I bent over a chair and was given three of the best with my trousers on. I did not think he lightened his strokes. I have never understood why Western educationists are so much against corporal punishment. It did my fellow students and me no harm.
This article as written by former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew in his book.

Raffles Institution c 1941. Photo source: National Archives of Singapore.

Raffles Institution c 1950. Photo source: National Archives of Singapore.

A bird's eye view of Raffle Institution c 1971. Photo source: National Archives of Singapore.


Blogger ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

You will be in the headlines again Thim for highlighting this paragraph.

But it's the truth and boys will be boys.


September 28, 2011 at 8:40 AM  
Blogger Unk Dicko said...

Now that even the great man himself has spoken about his breaking of the school rules and the punishment he got...I think it's high time we also share our own ordeals..for the moment restricted to just schooldays.
What sayeth you my dear Thimbuktu?
Encourage one and all to either write,blog or by way of comments.

September 28, 2011 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger Icemoon said...

Hmm, is he saying the punishment was not painful at all?

September 28, 2011 at 5:53 PM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...


Former MM Lee Kuan Yew was caned by the Raffles Institution principal D.W. McLeod in 1938. Mr Lee reollected for arriving late in school and punished:

"But I was not let off with an admonition. I bent over a chair and was given three of the best with my trousers on. I did not think he lightened his strokes".

September 29, 2011 at 9:59 AM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Unk Dicko,

As sayeth us: "Spare the rod and spoil the child" which the cane as an experience in schooldays lessons for punishment to discipline.

There are many kids who have not been caned for playful and mischievous in school. I have gone through this experience to know the difference of thick and thin canes :)

The punishment by caning for vandalism was a lesson by Michael Fay and charged in court an entirely different matter.

September 29, 2011 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger Lam Chun See said...

Thanks for sharing this. I must ask my UK friend Brian Mitchell to read this.

The other day, one lady wrote a letter to the ST Forum page condemning corporal punishment. She said that it will teach our children to respond with violence. If she was right, me, my siblings and cousins and even my 3 children would all be violent people who only know how to settle differences with violence.

September 29, 2011 at 10:33 PM  
Blogger Icemoon said...

I think the corporal punishment on LKY was not hard enough but still memorable.

At the beginning of his book, LKY talked about how he was dragged and left dangling above the well by the ear. Now, this is the real corporal punishment!

October 1, 2011 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger lim said...

I had a most tumultous time in my primary school days when I accidentally saw a boy being caned by his mother in front of the principal. It was not caning, in my opinion, as the boy screamed at the top of his voice and jumped up at each stroke of the cane. It is not how hard you cane but how effective in disseminating the lesson from the punishment. That's how we grow up.

October 3, 2011 at 10:49 AM  
Blogger lim said...

Let me make a correction to my above post. It was not 'tumultous' but 'traumatic.' I think a good explanation to the child the reason for the punishment will go a long way to help the child understand the value of discipline.

October 4, 2011 at 11:01 AM  

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