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New rules for preschoolers absent from class

Apr 12,2016
A new regulation by the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health and Welfare will require kindergartens and daycare centers to pay a call on the residence of any child who has missed school for more than two days.

The JoongAng Ilbo obtained a copy of the new regulation on Monday.

Education Minister Lee Joon-sik ordered the ministries to come up with ways to protect preschoolers after a 7-year-old boy was killed by an abusive stepmother in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, in March.

The 7-year-old was absent from kindergarten for a month and no measure was taken to see if he was all right.

On the first day a child doesn’t show up for kindergarten or day care, teachers have to contact the parents to confirm the safety of the child and find out when the child will return to school. If the teachers can’t reach the family by phone, they have to continue trying, according to the instruction manual.

If the family still hasn’t been reached on a second day of absence, one of the teachers and a person from a community center are required to visit the child’s house. If they notice any possibility of child abuse or can’t confirm the safety or whereabouts of the child, they have to report to the police or a child protection institution.

Starting from 2017, kindergartens and daycare centers will require parents to sign a consent form that they will give prior notice to schools before any absences.

“The consent form is a mechanism to raise awareness and notify the parents of a possible visit to their house,” said an official from the Ministry of Education.

The instruction manual will be distributed to kindergartens and day care centers after a final review.

“It’s difficult to get a good idea of a kid’s condition through a phone call,” said Jung Kwang-jin, the head of Korea Edu-care Association. “I think it is appropriate that the ministries devised a method in which the teachers can visit the child’s house.”

But some worry it’s going too far.

“It’s very common for preschoolers to be absent from kindergarten or day care facilities because their parents bring them on vacations or to family gatherings,” said Kim Ae-soon, the vice chairwoman of the Korea Kindergarten Association. “If the teachers have to visit the children’s house or report to the police simply because they cannot get in touch with the family, it will become very burdensome.”

“We need more realistic measures since it will be difficult for kindergarten in rural areas with few staff to make home visits,” said Kim Dong-suk, the spokesman for the Korean Federation of Teachers Association.

BY NAM YOON-SEO [shin.sooyeon@joongang.co.kr]


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