Posted : 2012-02-21 18:55
Updated : 2012-02-21 18:55

Teachers unhappy about dual homeroom teacher system

By Yun Suh-young

Teachers are reacting negatively to the government’s decision to place two homeroom teachers per classroom, expressing skepticism about the impact of the new system on rooting out school violence.

The Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology announced Monday a detailed guideline on the implementation of the “dual homeroom teacher system,” the latest in a series of measures to fight school violence.

It will begin implementing the system in middle schools and slowly expand it to elementary and high schools.

Starting from March, one more teacher will be placed in classrooms with more than 30 students in middle schools beginning with second graders.

According to the ministry, second grade students are the ones most prone to school violence and therefore eliminating violence during that year grade will have a ripple effect on first and third graders.

The ministry claims that if there are two teachers in the classroom, the teachers will have more time to look after the students and keep an eye on the unruly ones. The ministry’s guideline provides examples on how the responsibilities between the two teachers should be divided.

Skepticism prevails

Most teachers, however, are opposed to the measure expressing concerns that it will hardly have any effect in rooting out school violence.

“The dual teacher system came out as a measure to prevent school violence but it seems to me that it won’t be the fundamental solution. To start with, school violence is not simply a matter teachers can solve because in many cases it comes from lack of home discipline,” said a 54 year-old teacher, surnamed Lee, from an elementary school in Incheon.

“Besides, schools don’t have the budget to place more teachers as homeroom teachers nor do they have enough teachers to do the job. Teachers are avoiding becoming homeroom teachers these days even if they’re provided with a bonus of 110,000 won for taking the role. The job is too frustrating and the low pay doesn’t even compensate for the stress.”

It would be more efficient and effective to reduce the number of students in each class, she said.

“The reason why the government is trying to place more teachers in the classroom is because they want a higher teacher/student ratio. But I don’t understand how they’re planning to do this if they lack in budget to allocate to schools. Besides, it’s simpler to reduce the number of students per class. But it’s a pity that schools can’t do that because there aren’t enough classrooms,” said Lee.

Others pointed out that the system may cause conflicts between teachers and create confusion in sharing the roles and responsibilities between them.

“I think if there are two teachers per class, students will also divide themselves up based on which teacher they support. Students will also try to compare one teacher to another which will exacerbate the relationship between the two teachers,” said a teacher surnamed Kim from a private boy’s middle school in Seoul.

Lee from Incheon also agreed that the system will only cause disharmony.

“The system is not new. It was once implemented in the 1990s but failed because it wasn’t very effective. In fact, my daughter had dual homeroom teachers when she was little. But from what I heard from her, I could tell that it only exacerbated the relationship between the two teachers because students kept comparing the two. I don’t think she thought it was effective as a student nor did I think so as a parent,” said Lee.

Confusion in roles

A teacher from Hanyang High School in Seoul, who declined to be named, pointed out that the system could cause confusion in terms of role division.

“There are still many teachers who are old and experienced. In a Confucian society like Korea, if young teachers and old teachers are placed together at a classroom as homeroom teachers, it will cause tremendous confusion in terms of how to divide up the responsibilities. Even if they are equally divided, I hardly doubt they will be executed that way,” he said.

The teacher in his 30s instead suggested that schools be provided with professional counseling personnel to handle school violence.

“If the purpose of implementing the dual homeroom teacher system is to prevent school violence, I think it’d be better to hire professional counselors who are wholly responsible for taking care of the matter,” he said.

“The government said it will place one counseling teacher per school but that’s not something new nor will it be helpful. We already have counselors at schools but they’re usually female. Issues like school violence are difficult to deal with so male teachers must assume the role. I’d rather suggest the government foster professional counseling personnel who can exclusively take charge of the matter. Measures like these seem like nothing new but a simple change in the name, which will ultimately be ineffective.”

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