The alternative to smacking students: Push-ups

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The alternative to smacking students: Push-ups

Teachers in Seoul may no longer be able to slap misbehaving students, but they will be able to order them to do push-ups or run laps.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology yesterday released official guidelines on how teachers can discipline students now that corporal punishment has been banned in Seoul and is on its way out in other regions.

The ministry was responding to widespread complaints from teachers that students were running riot since corporal punishment was banned in Seoul in November. Teachers argued that physical punishments were widely considered an effective means of disciplining students in schools. Four other regions governed by liberal education heads are in the process of abolishing physical punishment.

“To minimize confusion in classrooms after corporal punishment was banned in some regions, the ministry came up with the guidelines after collecting various opinions regarding the issue from experts,” said Education Minister Lee Ju-ho yesterday. Lee said the guideline will be enforced starting in March with the spring semester.

Under the guidelines, teachers are permitted to discipline students by ordering them to do push-ups, stand in the back of the classroom, or run or walk a few laps around the school playground. Teachers will be permitted to suspend students from school for up to ten days, with a maximum suspension of 30 days a year. Suspended students will receive counseling from education experts. If a student keeps misbehaving after 30 days of suspension, the ministry will allow teachers to summon parents to school for counseling.

Heads of schools can adopt the ministry’s guidelines as a part of their school regulation, Minister Lee added.

The ordinance that banned corporal punishment said teachers could summon parents of a misbehaving student, but teachers complained it wasn’t legally binding and chances were high that parents wouldn’t obey.

The ministry plans to revise a law to mandate parents to appear at schools when teachers summon them to discuss their children’s misbehavior.

Lee said the Education Ministry will also revise the law to take away local education chiefs’ power to autonomously make school policies.

The ministry’s announcement faced immediate criticism from liberal education chiefs, who said it would just perpetuate confusion on the punishment policy. Of the 12 local education chiefs elected in the June 2 local elections, five are liberals: Seoul, Gyeonggi, North Jeolla, South Jeolla, Gwangju and Gangwon.

“The push-ups suggested by the ministry will inflict physical pain on students, and it isn’t allowed by the Seoul Office of Education,” read a statement released by the Seoul Education Office. “It is also deeply regretful that the ministry plans to take away local education chiefs’ rights of approving school ordinances. The ministry’s action will severely restrict education chiefs from fulfilling their election pledges.”

By Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]


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