Punishment guidelines welcomedThe Ministry of Education, Science and Technology issued guidelines on corporal punishment in schools after a recent ban on the practice in Seoul and Gyeonggi led to an avalanche of complaints about misbehaving and unruly students.
The guidelines recommend nonphysical disciplinary measures, like push-ups, and leave decisions on the scope and method of punishment up to each school.
We think that these guidelines will be helpful to schools and teachers. By introducing new guidelines on disciplinary measures at schools, the Education Ministry clarified its position that it believes physical pain should not be inflicted on students even though the current nationwide law allows corporal punishment “when it is necessary for education purposes.”
The ministry has officially pushed efforts to end the practice of smacking students on the palms or calves with ruler-like objects in favor of nonphysical disciplinary actions to maintain order in our schools.
Although we believe the move away from corporal punishment is a step in the right direction, it would be premature to ban all disciplinary actions in a time when teachers are increasingly losing authority in the classroom.
The ministry’s guidelines, however, will likely be unwelcomed by liberal education superintendents who have been ardently campaigning to abolish any form of punishment at schools. Currently, setting school rules falls under the jurisdiction of superintendents, and their opposition could sink the ministry’s efforts to establish guidelines.
However, school superintendents should understand that the Act on Elementary and Secondary Education is above the ordinances of city and local government education offices. The ministry should also take the steps necessary to persuade individual superintendents to accommodate the guidelines.
Additionally, schools should map out effective disciplinary measures according to their own situations and environments. Even if they do not cause direct physical pain, the disciplinary measures should not exact humiliation on students or neglect their physical and psychological states.
The opinions of students, teachers and parents should also be fully reflected. Disciplinary actions are mere tools to enhance the effectiveness of education at school. They should not be the cause of exhaustive controversies and further confusion in our learning environment.