Adjustment, not prohibition

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Adjustment, not prohibition

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Choi Jin-kyu

The sinking of the Sewol was unbearable for parents who thought their children were trapped underwater, terrorized and frozen. Since the ferry capsized April 16, the nation, along with the families, has prayed and waited eagerly for miraculous news as rescuers fought harsh weather conditions. We hoped our country wouldn’t let us down, that at least one life could be saved.

But our hopes and their lives were wasted because the shipping company ran the ferry recklessly and greedily and authorities turned a blind eye to illegalities. However, the first thing to go out the window was school trips. The Education Ministry announced it will put hold on all school field trips during the first semester. Problems should be fixed, but eliminating them without looking into them and seeking solutions is not a responsible act by the authorities.

School trips are an extension of the classroom that allow students to experience what they learned in books through direct contact with nature and cultural settings. At the same time, they are opportunities for children from less wealthy families to travel to popular destinations. They are memorable times because children rarely have a chance to spend the night with their peers and teachers away from family and classroom. School trips organized in large groups do carry safety risks, and they should be modified to better accommodate safety and educational purposes.

The Korean school curriculum is engineered to send students to college. But with college admissions officers increasingly considering academic records and individual efforts to expand one’s ability and talents instead of relying solely on a one-time state college exam score, high schools now have more leeway to arrange extracurricular activities to guide students according to their interests and needs. Students are encouraged to form groups with peers from the same or other grades who share the same interests or curiosity to explore learning and experience outside the classrooms

There are some who want to scrap group trips and activities over safety concerns in the wake of the Sewol disaster. Large-group travels should be restrained, but students should instead be allowed to use the time for liberal extracurricular activities. All schools from elementary and high school reserve several days for school excursions or field trips. Students should be given the choice of using the time for volunteer or learning activities or traveling and sharing experiences with their families and friends.

The ban on school trips until June 30 will hurt popular destinations such as the ancient city Gyeongju and resort destination Jeju Island. In order to make a ship stable, its weight must be balanced. One-sided decisions, likewise, would set off complaints from the other side and damage social unity and stability. A public policy, therefore, should be balanced and based on majority consensus.

Education authorities should readjust school travels to smaller-scale liberal activities in the wake of the accident. Schools should set aside a period for self-exploration and make students draw up their reports on their experience so they can be reflected in school records. In this way, the time could be spent on more practical and educational purposes. Our kids live in an age that prizes individualism and creativity. Teachers and others in the educational field should try to bring out inner talents and help them bloom. Through the momentum of a tragic disaster, we must transform the large-group school trip tradition into a more creative student-led model. Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 25, Page 26.

*The author is a teacher at Seoryeong High School in Seosan City, South Chungcheong Province.

By Choi Jin-kyu

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