99% of Korean teachers oppose expansion of student rights
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99% of Korean teachers oppose expansion of student rights

Source article in Korean is at this link.

“My home is far away, how am I supposed to change my clothes and come back. Is it alright if I just go home?”

Last year at high school “A” in the Jungnang-gu area of Seoul, arguments have erupted between teachers and students every morning. Teachers would catch students coming to school without wearing their school uniforms. However, enforcement was in name only, with teachers unable to do anything more pointed than issue demerites. It was also difficult for them to take away students’ cellphones even if they used them during class.

With the execution of the students’ rights ordinance in an atmosphere in which teachers have greater difficulty offering guidance to students, students have come to completely ignore their teachers. One principal said that “even the ordinance says that students have to wear uniforms, but students don’t even think of it. All last year it appeared to have had a big effect on students, who seemed influenced to think that ‘regulations have weakened’.”

The Seoul students’ rights ordinance will have been in effect for one full year as of the 26th, and a study has found that nearly every teacher in the Seoul area thinks it should be either amended or overturned. This is because the ordinance, teachers say, has placed every Seoul-area school into a situation to that at high school “A”.

On the 21st and 22nd the Dong-A Ilbo and the Korean Federation of Teacher’s Associations surveyed 705 teachers in the Seoul area, finding that 87.2% believe the ordinance has worsened conditions at their schools. Over half, 55.7%, say the situation is “considerably worse” and 31.5% say it is “worse”. 9.8% believe things are “unchanged”, while 1.6% and 0.3%, respectively, believe things are either “better” or “considerably better”.

Similarly, the view of teachers that there has been a very negative effect leads in to the view that the job of guiding students has gotten tougher as well. Asked about what has been “the largest change since the ordinance”, 73.8% said that “guiding students has become difficult and the number of problem students has increased”. 1.1% said that “the structure of the educational environment has become more respectful of human rights” and 3.5% said that “students’ rights and obligations have expanded”, illustrating the low number of positive responses.

Asked about what has been the greatest difficulty in guiding students, 38.7% said “disruptions in class”, 32.9% said “the absence of control methods due to the ban on corporal punishment“. Also, 87.0% of teachers said that, due to the ordinance, they have either directly experienced, or heard from other teachers, that students no longer listen to correct guidance.

Accordingly, 58.9% of respondents said that “the ordinance must be amended or altered” and 40.0% said that “the ordinance must be overturned”.

Kim Dong-seok, spokesman for the KFTA, said of the survey findings that “many teachers feel that the ordinance has had negative effects on student guidance that have been greater than its proper function of developing students’ rights and responsibilities.”

With critical voices growing louder, it appears that debate will continue to engulf the ordinance.

Currently, the Ministry of Science, Education, and Technology is pursuing, to the Supreme Court, litigation for affirmation of nullity over the Seoul students’ rights ordinance. The reason is the violation of school’s freedoms. Last October Lee  Dae-yeong, former acting superintendent of education in Seoul,  sent an official notice to certain schools advising them that they should amend their school regulation in accordance with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act rather than the ordinance.

Mun Yong-rin, who was elected superintendent of education last year after pledging to amend the ordinance, recently said that “because of the students’ rights ordinance there have been an increasing number of cases of teachers having difficulty guiding students. I will send the city council proposed amendments after determining precisely which clauses of the ordinance are problematic.”