Education in differenceIsmael Udin wants to know how to die without pain. A fourth-year student at an elementary school in Seoul, he became an easy target for violence from his peers just because his skin color is different. An 11-year-old with a Bangladeshi mother and Korean father, Ismael often chooses to hole up at home all day instead of playing with other kids in the neighborhood. His classmates once singled him out as the “most unpleasant friend” in a vote. After that, he was increasingly punched and picked on by other students at his school. It’s regrettable that he feels he has to shut himself away from the outside world in order to avoid the abuse of his peers.
His story explicitly demonstrates the severity of school violence across the country as an increasing number of kids from multiethnic families become victims of the mounting violence.
Furthermore, the primary school Ismael attends was selected as a place for “multicultural education” by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. Despite the various programs implemented by the government to help prevent discrimination against mixed-race kids, such as Korean language classes, a considerable number of them are still crying for help.
We are dumbfounded by the shocking revelation by Ismael’s parents that the principal of the school did nothing but reprimand three students who frequently used violence against Ismael. What parents would send their kids to a school that maintains such a dismissive attitude about the collective use of physical violence against a young boy?
The education authorities must stop talking about “multicultural education” and immediately investigate what happened at the school in order to find more effective ways to avoid such tragedies in the future. The number of children from multiethnic families had increased to 150,000 as of last year.
It is our national shame to witness a recurrence of rampant discrimination and violence at our schools. Children from multiethnic families are precious assets in the era of the low birthrate. If we treat them as second-class citizens by discriminating against them, it will most likely leave indelible scars on the victims, while implanting prejudice in the hearts of the perpetrators.
That is why “multicultural education” should focus on teaching people to accept difference. What counts most is not theory but practice. Society must help Ismael communicate with the rest of the world again.