Let the schools decideSchool classrooms around the country are still in disarray over what disciplinary tactics they can use as the government and regional education offices engage in a power struggle over school policies.
The Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology planned to order education offices to distribute guidelines to schools across the nation by the end of March on ways to discipline students instead of corporal punishment.
Earlier in the month, the government approved an ordinance to allow physical but non corporal punishment at schools to reinstate order in classrooms.
But liberal superintendents of regional offices, including Seoul, are strongly resisting the government decision and plan to enforce a blanket ban on any form of physical punishment.
Teachers have complained of weakening authority in classrooms since they were prohibited from physically disciplining students for indecency and poor behavior. Nine out of 10 teachers in a nationwide survey said their authority has fallen after their corporal punishment power was stripped.
Growing anxiety over poor classroom behavior has led the ministry to interfere and permit disciplinary measures such as push-ups.
But liberal education chiefs remain vehemently opposed to corporal punishment disciplinary measures, advocating counseling as a better option.
The way they insist on their views is worrisome. The Education Office of Gyeonggi is threatening to penalize schools that change school regulations to accommodate the ministry’s guidelines on school discipline, even as the government education ordinance is a higher order.
Other liberal education superintendents plan to take similar actions. They say that school regulations fall in their jurisdiction. But their actions go against their previous promises to allow more curriculum and policy freedom in schools.
It should be up to individual schools to decide on a means of discipline and to educate their students as they know them best.
If schools are confident that they can maintain school and classroom order without any means of corporal punishment, they can do so as well.
But if teachers, students and parents are of the consensus that some form of disciplinary guideline is needed, they should be written down as a school regulation.