Character education to be taught in all schoolsThe National Assembly on Monday passed a character education promotion act, which requires all Korean kindergartens, elementary, middle and high schools to teach students how to develop “humane character and capabilities” in class next year.
The bill was approved in a unanimous vote.
According to the legislation, character education refers to teaching students how to “develop the mentality and attitude necessary for living with others, and in nature.”
Key values include etiquette, filial duty, generosity, cooperation, communication and responsibility. Korea is the first country in the world to establish a character education law that obligates schools to teach personal qualities.
“Korea’s goal in the 21st century is to seize both material development and mental maturity,” said National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa, who led approximately 100 other lawmakers in proposing the bill in May 2014.
“In the previous Sewol ferry tragedy, we witnessed the collapse of basic ethics and morality,” said Chung, referencing the human error involved in the country’s worst maritime disaster.
Chung continued that through the new law, which will go into effect in July 2015, the government will try to spread “community values, like respect and consideration for others, among society.”
Education Minister Hwang Woo-yea also lauded the bill on Monday, saying it has “profound significance” in setting legal grounds for collecting funding for character education in schools.
Although similar courses have long been held in some local schools, Hong Seung-sin, head of the Humanistic Education Association, said that Monday’s announcement is the “beginning of systemizing scholastic character education.” In previous years, such education was taught sporadically, he added.
“Education ministers have introduced character education policies in the past,” said Hong, “but there was no consistency because they always changed upon the arrival of a new education chief.”
As for any possible setbacks in the character education promotion act, Hong said that complications would likely occur in budget planning. The law stipulates that the central and local governments must cooperate in laying out specific character education programs and share the necessary budget.
A national character education committee will also be established to draw up a comprehensive plan every five years. The group will be composed of 20 members, including vice-ministers from the Education Ministry; the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism; the Ministry of Health and Welfare; and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.
Specialists from the private sector will also participate in the committee.
Teachers will be required to pass a training program for character education, and teacher training institutes must open a relevant course. Schools will be evaluated on the subject at the end of each year, and the government has the option of outsourcing programs.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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