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School CP - March 2002

Digital Chosun Ilbo (English edition), Seoul, 19 March 2002

New Education Measures Released

By Yang Geun-man

The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development announced Monday the final version of its measures for diagnosing and strengthening public education. These include an all-out revival of supplementary classes in middle to high school, the ban of classes lasting to midnight at private institutes, the adjustment of winter vacations in elementary, middle and high school to the end of February and the allowance of the use of corporal punishment if necessary, which has been a controversial issue.

According to the measures, all kinds of educational activities after school will be discretionary decided on by teachers, students, and parents. The school principal will also be in charge of all supplemental educational programs. It also allows teachers to invite popular instructors for the extra classes if necessary. The measures stipulate that any supplementary class is optional, not compulsorily.

With regard to corporal punishment, guidelines will be mapped out by with participation of students, teachers and parents in order to prevent abuse and unnecessary conflict.

Choi Hee-seon, vice minister of education in charge of insuring the substantiality of public education said the measures are focused on strengthening competitiveness by securing the independence of a school unit and encouraging school teachers' "pride and motivation."

Digital Chosun Ilbo (English edition), Seoul, 20 March 2002


Make-Up Classes and Corporal Punishment

The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development's "plan for improving the substance of public education" does not contain anything new or impressive. The most that can be found of use about it is the idea about delaying the start of winter vacation. Also of note is its proposal to revive supplementary classes and again permit corporal punishment, both having been prohibited for their many alleged problems and abuses. The situation for public education is far different than what it was four years ago when both were done away with.

The current government's education policy is one of "open education" that centers on the student (the "consumer") rather than the teacher. The idea was to focus on education that develops special skills and character in order to do away with the evils of education that is all about preparing for university entrance exams. But what has been the result? Teachers' workload and responsibilities have grown on a massive scale, while in the meantime their standing in the education process has shrunk just as dramatically, the cause of "the collapse of teacher authority" and "the collapse of Korean education." It prohibited supplementary classes in an effort to lessen the intensity of "overheated" university entrance competition and to keep schools from becoming entrance academies, but this only led to an inflation in demand for private tutoring. The prohibition on corporal punishment turned teachers into helpless authority figures who were unable to do anything with a student who would go too far in challenging them.

The problem is how to minimize the overheating and the negative side affects. When you permit supplementary classes, the supplementary classes cause problems, and then when you prohibit them, the problem then becomes the way parents go around the system to supplement the education anyway. Headmasters, teachers, and parents need to work together to make supplementary classes work to the ends they are best intended, and that they may this time around become a means to further students' learning as needed.

Corporal punishment needs to be brought back and allowed within the limits of maintaining the dignity of our teachers, and be used as a restrained tool. Those opposed to corporal punishment say there is no such thing as the so-called "loving whip," but it is true that in the past the "whip" was sometimes wielded out of anger as well. It needs to be limited to the use of canes, for example. One hopes there would be concrete guidelines.

(March 20, 2002)

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Colin Farrell 2002
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