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Dispute Over Students` Human Rights Escalates

Posted July. 07, 2010 17:23,   


The dispute over setting rules governing students’ human rights is evolving from a conflict between conservatives and liberals to one pitting teachers versus students.

Seven chapters of the progressive Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union, the Parents Association for True Education, and the youth human rights group Asunaro will host an event Wednesday to launch the Seoul headquarters for rules on students’ human rights.

In response, the conservative Korean Federation of Teachers’ Associations released a commentary Tuesday saying, “Legislating laws on students’ human rights encourages conflict between teachers and students.”

“Rules on students’ human rights do not respect schools and see things only from the perspective of universal human rights,” the commentary said. “Too much emphasis on a student’s human rights could infringe on other students’ right to learn and teachers’ right to teach.”

A federation survey of 442 students at public schools in December last year found that 76 percent of teachers oppose setting rules on students’ human rights.

The biggest reason for teacher opposition was the potential difficulty in guiding students. Ninety-two percent of teachers in the survey said that if the rules are introduced, controlling their students will grow more difficult.

Seventy-eight percent also said they disagree with liberals who claim that promoting human rights will bring a new school order.

Federation spokesman Kim Dong-seo said, “Ninety-three percent of teachers think school order has collapsed and that if we emphasize students’ human rights too much, we cannot stop the collapse of schools. If rules on students’ human rights are necessary, those to promote teachers’ rights must be created for balance.”

Teachers say introducing rules at a time when students lack a good understanding of human rights could bring chaos in class. A high school teacher in Seoul said, “A student says he’s hungry in class and wants to get something to eat. I say that because you’re in class now, go there on a break.”

“Then the student cries violation of his human rights.”

Another high school teacher said, “A student was studying another subject in class. I told him to stop but he didn’t budge and called it a human rights violation."

The survey said 68 percent of teachers believe students lack understanding on human rights and 67 percent that human rights education is not enough.

The criticism did not stop youth groups and the progressive teachers’ union from claiming that the human rights of youths must be protected.

The union’s Seoul chapter said in a commentary celebrating the election of Kwak Roh-hyun as the city superintendant of schools, “We hope that students fight for guaranteeing of basic rights, securing political freedom, and creating an entity for education.

A member of the youth group Asunaro said on an Internet forum, “Education is rather very political,” adding, “We cannot agree that youths are immature, however. Being mature is not a matter of how old you are but what kind of experience and thoughts you have.”