Educators look to sports to remedy school violence

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Educators look to sports to remedy school violence

A Seoul middle school identified as “A” has decided to reduce its Korean language and technology classes by an hour each for third-year students starting from the upcoming spring semester upon receiving an official order from the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education to “expand physical education classes from the spring semester” on Feb. 19.

In order to expand sports classes, the school had to select other classes to be shortened.

But two days later, the school received another official document from the education office that stated, “In order to allow schools to effectively prepare for the expansion of physical education classes, the plan is temporarily suspended. Please wait until there’s another announcement.”

Bullying and school violence is an ongoing problem, and one of the measures to fight it is to increase the physical activities of students in school.

However, some schools protested that it is impossible to change the school schedule so suddenly with only a couple of weeks left in the new semester, so the education office decided to pull back its plan.

“Upon such an order, we managed with difficulty to make time to expand sports classes, but now they want to suspend it. We are dumbfounded,” said one of the teachers from A middle school.

“The start of the semester is around the corner and there’s no time to change things. Other schools are also perplexed by the frequent changes.”

The measure of expanding physical education classes drawn up by the government is being criticized for not being carried out smoothly, blaming the government for pushing it unilaterally to adopt the measure right away before checking with the schools if it is possible or not.

According to the government’s plan reported on Jan. 6, middle schools throughout the country should expand the physical education classes from three hours a week to four hours a week for first and second graders, and two hours to four hours for third graders.

A total of 1.91 million students from 3,153 middle schools across the country were subject to the new plan.

At that time, an official from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said, “The measure was drawn up following analysis that activity and trainings of students through physical education is effective in eradicating school violence.”

However, schools are voicing several problems that are rising due to the measure.

According to schools, it must reduce time for other classes or “activity period,” in which middle school students spend three hours a week having class meetings, club activities and voluntary activities, in order to make time for additional physical education classes.

But if the classes for other subjects are reduced, schools said it would get complaints from teachers as well as parents.

To avoid getting complaints from teachers and parents, many schools, therefore, were considering cutting down time for the activity period.

“Activity periods are important for students as well,” said a teacher at a middle school in Incheon. “Reducing time for such periods to make time for sports activities is a makeshift plan.”


By Sung Si-yoon, Chun In-sung [sharon@joongang.co.kr]

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