Rule changes bring confusion to schools
By Yi Whan-woo
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology’s revision to education-related regulations, Tuesday, is stirring up confusion among schools in Seoul, as the changes run counter to the policy of the municipal education office.
The ministry plans to allow elementary, middle and high schools to set independent student guidelines on hair length and dress code, and use of mobile phones in classrooms.
The move is designed to nullify ordinances set by some municipal and provincial education offices which ban schools from enforcing any independent guidelines.
The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education has vowed to force schools to follow its ordinance that allows students to freely grow hair, wear anything they want, and possess their handsets without any intervention by teachers.
However, the ministry is firm in applying its changed rules to enable schools to set their own measures in terms of students’ appearances. Such a move is against the policy of the municipal education offices that claim any restriction on students’ looks violates their human rights.
“Each school is required to set their own guidelines, without having to follow ordinances set by local education offices,” a ministry official said.
Teachers in Seoul are confused over which rules they should obey _ the rules of the education ministry or ordinances of municipal and provincial education offices.
“One thing we want to make clear to teachers is that each school’s guidelines should not go against municipal ordinances to better protect the basic human rights of students,” said an official with Seoul’s education office.
However, each school is in a dilemma over how to cope with the confusion arising from conflicting policies of the ministry and the education offices.
“Both organizations are our upper policy-making bodies, and simply obeying either of the conflicting rules will not solve the matter,” a middle school headmaster in Seoul said.
A vice headmaster at a high school echoed his view.
“Students can file a complaint if we set rules to regulate their hair length, and I’m sure the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education would force us to stop it.”
He added that the ministry and the education offices had better bring the dispute to court to decide whether schools should follow the government rules or municipal or provincial ordinances.