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What is school for?

Posted November. 30, 2010 10:55,   


“I learned what life is about at school. I learned to remain silent after being beaten by my teacher. I learned how to be more jealous of others...The biggest thing I learned, however, was to give up my imagination as much as I could due to so many rules.” This is what Korean poet Yoo Ha wrote in his poem “What I learned from school.” As the poem says, does school deprive students of imagination? Is school just “Another Brick in the Wall” as the Pink Floyd song says?

People think they know what is going on at schools but they do not. While the entire nation is focused on North Korea’s artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island, an EBS 10-episode documentary series “What is School For?” is garnering attention. The eighth episode “The Secret of 0.1 Percent” broadcast Sunday surveyed 1,200 students (including those at the top of their class) and 800 parents at 164 schools nationwide on their awareness and habits at school. Among them, they picked and interviewed 0.1 percent, or 20 people, on their secrets of doing well at school. Surprisingly, the secrets were student concentration and parental trust in school education.

The fifth episode “My Teacher Has Changed” deeply touched viewers. The program started by introducing five elementary and junior high school teachers who were undergoing a tough time at school. They complained that students were late to school, sleeping in class, and intentionally ignoring them. Teachers then created a six-month training program focused on catering to students, praising them rather than scolding, and wandered around the classroom instead of standing in front. Students began to change. “I felt a sense of closeness toward students,” one teacher said.

Students might disagree with what a teacher perceives as bad behavior. Even so, private academic institutes should never replace schools. Trust in teachers and school is the only way to revive domestic education. The implicit message in the EBS program is that teachers should change first to gain trust from students and parents.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)