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Disturbing Korean Classroom Scenes

Posted December. 16, 2006 08:03,   


Scene Number One-

English teacher Park of J elementary school in Gyeonggi province was dumbfounded last week. Park scolded a student for doing homework from a private tutoring institution during her class, and right in front of Park, the student made a gesture to hit her in the head.

Park made the student to come up to her and asked, “If you were me, how do you think you would feel? Wouldn’t you feel offended by that?” However, the student said nothing and avoided making any eye contact with her. Teacher Park said, “Students are frequently swearing to me but without saying those words audibly; only with the shape of their mouth.” And she said with a sigh, “These days, I often regret that I chose my career as a teacher.”

Scene Number Two-

Teacher Kim of B high school in South Gyeongsang province was severely cursed when he stopped a student who was leaving the classroom without stating a reason. Out of frustration, he called the counseling department, but the only answer he received was, “Currently there is nothing you can do, so just endure the situation.” Kim could hardly hold back his mixed feeling when he said, “I don’t know why and for what purpose I am teaching now.” At the end of last month, at Goyang and Seongnam in Gyeonggi province, female teachers were assaulted by an elementary student and a middle school student for scolding them.

The collapse of the classroom, where teachers no longer have their authority in the classroom, is appearing in Korea. In Japan, where the phenomenon started in the 1980s and began spiraling out of control by the early 1990s, the Japanese government has tried to find adequate measures.

Teacher are Now Used to Students Cursing at Them-

A research paper surveyed 705 teachers across the country from December 7 to 11 together with the Korean Federation of Teachers Associations on the current status of teacher’s authority in the classroom. The results were far more severe than expected.

It turned out that four out of 10 teachers have been cursed at or beaten by students at least once, and 62.3 percent of the surveyed replied that they saw other teachers being cursed or beaten.

In fact, according to teachers’ explanations, verbal abuse against teachers has become almost common, even in the elementary schools. Teacher Ju of S elementary school in Seoul said that she even heard a student say “shut up” while the student was being admonished.

When teachers say to students not to chat during class, in not just a few cases, students retorted by saying “jeul” (the buzzword used on the Internet among Koreans to sarcastically laugh at others). Hence, many teachers refrain from waking up sleeping students during class in order to avoid trouble out of the situation.

Spreading Concern Over “Classroom Crashes”-

In the 1990s, the phrase “classroom crash” was a fad word in Japan. The phrase was made to criticize the situation in which teachers could not hold class because of students’ resistance. In such a situation, teaching even ordinary subjects is difficult, let alone helping students to shape their character through education. In Japan’s classrooms, teachers’ scolding and reprimanding are not only ignored by students but even result in bullying and harassment from the students.

Education experts in Japan are assessing that the collective harassment of one student by many students, one of the most serious social issues, has also resulted from teachers’ loss of authority.

zeitung@donga.com snow@donga.com