By Kang Shin-who
With many teachers facing difficulty controlling students following the ban on corporal punishment, the Seoul education office came out with a guidebook on how to deal with unruly students.
The book contains detailed guidelines on how to discipline unruly students without physical punishment. For instance, if a student comes to school wearing a school uniform that is overly modified, the manual suggests that the uniform be seized for a certain period and give the student a spare uniform.
If a student refuses to follow teachers’ instruction during class, it stipulates that teachers should call the student to the staff room instead of scolding him or her in the classroom.
The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education hopes the guide will help ease confusion at schools where many misbehaving students are already showing signs of “revolting” against their teachers, capitalizing on the ban on corporal punishment.
However, whether the manual will have any substantial effect remains a big question.
While most teachers agree, in principle, to the need of the ban on any form of physical discipline, they have expressed concerns that students would turn more unruly with a lack of alternative tools to replace it.
Corporal punishment has disappeared at primary and secondary schools in Seoul from November when the ban imposed by the capital’s top education office went into effect.
Among alternatives being considered is more active use of calling in parents of disobedient students to the school. Some teachers are showing positive reactions to the idea. “I support the idea as parents are also responsible for the education of their children,” said a high school teacher in Wanju High School in North Jeolla Province.
However, some students are opposing the idea. “I don’t think summoning parents to schools for our faults is a good idea. I would prefer to be beaten by my teacher instead of disturbing my parents,” said Kim Kun-woo, a second grader at Seoul’s high school.
Headed by liberal top educator, Kwak No-hyun, elementary and secondary schools in Seoul City started to ban teachers from inflicting corporal punishment on students from this month.
The education authorities in Gyeonggi Province also announced the students’ rights ordinance, which bans all forms of physical punishment. The Office of Education in North Jeolla Province plans to join in the move as well.
However, other city and provincial education offices including Busan and Incheon, are opposing the “corporal punishment-free” campaign. Lim Hea-kyung, superintendent of the Busan Metropolitan City of Education, is claiming that the “rod of love” is still needed for the education of children. In a recent interview with The Korea Times, she said “banning corporal punishment abruptly means teachers will be stripped of tools to control unruly students.”
Na Guen-hyung, conservative superintendent of the Incheon Metropolitan Office of Education also says alternatives for physically disciplining students should be introduced first.
A majority of teachers are also pessimistic about a full ban on corporal punishment. In a recent survey by the conservative Korean Federation of Teachers’ Association on teachers in Seoul, nearly 70 percent of the respondents said corporal punishment is needed at schools. The teachers’ group also filed a petition to the ministry to legislate a law which permits corporal punishment under limited circumstances.
Some education experts think negatively about the education ministry’s move to unify policies on corporal punishment.
“The divided ideas on corporal punishment could perplex parents and students, but this means each city and provincial education office is independent from central government. The government should give freedom to city and provincial top educators to decide on the issue,” said Kim Hyun-jin, education professor at Kookmin University in Seoul. “If parents don’t like policies of the top educators, they will vote against them in the elections.”
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology agrees in principle to the ban on corporal punishment. It will soon announce a revised bill banning teachers from physically disciplining students. Under the current Education Law, teachers should refrain from physically punishing pupils but it leaves room for “exceptional” cases for educational purposes.”