Going beyond differenceIn Korea, there is a group of people called “multicultural children” instead of their real names. The number of children born to one Korean and one foreign parent has increased 2.9 times to 38,000 - or 0.55 percent of all students as of 2011 - during the last five years. But our schools’ and education authorities’ lack of policies for them has resulted in various types of discrimination just because of a difference in skin color. Some of these children have become the victims of violence at their schools.
Under the circumstances, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has come up with concrete policies to educate these children, as they are valuable assets. The government’s previous policies on mixed-race children regarded them as an “alienated class” and were aimed at providing them with aid. But a recent shift in policy could mark the beginning of a significant change in the government’s approach, as it has opened the way to embrace them for their ultimate contributions to our society.
We welcome the government’s latest decision to set up “preliminary” schools across the nation so that these children can adapt to their new surroundings for six months before enrolling in regular schools. Many of these children had to be placed at regular schools close to their homes as soon as they entered the country, and have subsequently experienced great difficulty adjusting to their new school environments. Therefore, the government will also establish Korean language courses for them at elementary, middle and high schools around the country and assign mentors to each one of them to accelerate their assimilation process in an effort to substantially promote their academic performance.
In addition, the government took a groundbreaking step in enabling mixed-race students to learn their mother tongue at their schools during after-school hours, on weekends or on vacation. The government’s efforts are desirable as they may not only induce parents to participate in their children’s education but also enhance their pride as multicultural families.
But policies alone are not enough. Korean teachers and students must put these policies into action by accepting mixed-race children as their precious pupils and peers. Our school community must go way beyond simply accepting differences in skin color. Education should focus on guiding our kids to accumulate diverse experiences so they will respect the value of diversity through mixed-race students. Only when our kids overcome differences can they weather the challenging global era.