Education chief to relax hair, dress codes

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Education chief to relax hair, dress codes

Seoul education chief Kwak No-hyun said he will ease restrictions on students’ dress and hair codes starting early next year, and reaffirmed his intent to push ahead with the controversial free-meal program for elementary students, despite objections from the city government.

The liberal Kwak made clear yesterday in an interview with Yonhap News Agency that he will “not just sit idle” as a crackdown on students’ dress codes and hair styles is conducted by some primary and secondary schools.

“The students rights ordinance, which is to be enacted in the new year, has to undergo a slew of processes to incorporate public opinion and social consent,” he said. “Nevertheless, measures will be taken to combat high-handed guidance over hair styles and dress codes, as well as compulsory extracurricular studies, even before the ordinance is finished.”

“Quarreling over hair and dress codes is the biggest type of feud between students and teachers,” an official at the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said.

Kwak also said he’d stick with his “3+1 Grade Plan” to provide free school meals for students in three grades of elementary school, and possibly a fourth, if financial resources are secured by each district’s education board starting next year. Detailed budget plans, according to an official from the education office, will be drawn up later when the budget from the Seoul Metropolitan Government is confirmed.

Kwak also vowed to improve public education by reducing students’ dependence on private tutors.

A spokesperson at the Korea Teachers and Education Workers’ Union welcomed Kwak’s suggestions saying, “We’re glad to see the education policy heading toward promoting students’ basic rights. However, opinions from teachers should be reflected so they can guide students.”

The Korea Federation of Teachers’ Associations opposed Kwak’s plan.

“Rather than being seen approving students’ personalities, it is likely to encourage a sense of incompatibility between rich and poor students, a higher possibility of aberrance, and the ruining of academic atmosphere,” the association said.

By Yoo Sun-young []
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