Monday, November 22, 2010

No More Hitting...But Then What Do We Do?

The Korea Times article that talks about the recent ban on corporal punishment, here in public schools, came into my mind today when I was leaving a 6th grade class with my coteacher.

The situation was that we just walked out of an unruly class that didn't really pay attention or participate. It boiled down to a group of boys who wouldn't stop talking and laughing with each other. At first my coteacher tried to punish them by making them come up to the front of the class and singing the book song in front of everyone. After that they were pretty quiet, but not totally. The reality is 6th grade, at this time of year, have what I call a "disease." This is that they see the "light at the end of the tunnel" and know that most of what they are doing doesn't matter. In February they will move on to Middle School where studying for important tests will start to take over their lives.

So their attitude is that of malaise and "who-cares." I understand and get this and are quite familiar with this at Korean public schools. However, in the past teachers were able to punish them using familiar methods, such as standing for long hours in uncomfortable poses or being hit by a stick. I for one have never seen a student get hit by a stick. But I have seen a lot of students having to hold their arms up in the hallway and stand there for a long time. Lately, though this seems to have disappeared.

The real issue here is the new law that bans corporal punishment and the fact that the government has given very little advice or instruction on what to do instead of using physical force. In fact, it really amazes me that the government didn't ease into this through phases of training and courses for the students. Instead, it feels like the teacher's "sticks" were literally grabbed out of their hands. I for one am in the boat that believes corporal punishment is not truly effective and also cruel. There are other means of punishment that have been developed and used over time that show they are just as effective. Example:

A more effective approach is a positive disciplinary program, incorporating activities that help teachers and administrators assume control and establish order with the cooperation of the students. Students receive rewards for controlling themselves. Examples of positive disciplinary activities are utilization of student input in the disciplinary policy, improvement of lines of communication, development of mutual respect between students and administrators and the modeling and reinforcement of good behavior. 
The bottom line is that there just isn't any proposed "program" to replace corporal punishment here. (As far as I have heard.) Maybe the Seoul Government's recent publication to guide teachers would help. Offering: (From the same Korea Times article above)
The book contains detailed guidelines on how to discipline unruly students without physical punishment. For instance, if a student comes to school wearing a school uniform that is overly modified, the manual suggests that the uniform be seized for a certain period and give the student a spare uniform.

If a student refuses to follow teachers’ instruction during class, it stipulates that teachers should call the student to the staff room instead of scolding him or her in the classroom.
Teachers here need more than just a guide book or pamphlet to help them along. They need support and training in whatever kind of program they deem would work.  I don't expect Korean public schools to adopt and start looking like Western schools (where some still use corporal punishment) but I really feel sorry for these teachers. Students, these days, know that they can't be whacked or physically punished for their bad behavior. They are starting to take the upper hand. Parents too are notorious for telling their kids to not listen to their teachers. The whole system needs a recall, if you ask me.

But for the most part things aren't falling apart and crashing, as it may sound to be. Perhaps in five years Korean teachers will have come up with their own successful methods of punishment and classroom management.

What I find most fascinating is that this begins the first generation of Korean students who do not experience strict corporal punishment at school. What will they be like when they are older? Take for example my good friend's son, who is in the 1st grade here in Korea. She told me how he was slapped on the hand for using his eraser as a little truck and playing with it. Sure he should have been paying attention, but the only lesson (I believe) he really learned was "Play = pain." It is my understanding that a teacher who has been trained in non-corporal punishment methods, would rather see this student as a kid with an imagination, and make a note of it.

One last thing, through my research on this topic, I found an organization called "Global Initiative End All Corporal Punishment of Children" which states in their address to South Korea:
"The Committee notes with great concern that corporal punishment is officially permitted in schools. The Committee is of the opinion that corporal punishment does not comply with the principles and provisions of the Convention, particularly since it constitutes a serious violation of the dignity of the child. [See similar observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, E/C.12/1/Add.79, para 36]. The fact that Ministry of Education guidelines leave the decision on whether to use corporal punishment in schools to the individual school administrators suggests that some forms of corporal punishment are acceptable and therefore undermines educational measures to promote positive and non-violent discipline."
I wonder what they would have to say now in regards to this new law.

Is this new law part of a seed that will, from the inside out, slowly reform Korea? Or not?

**Follow this article for a great perspective on the whole impact.**
Your thoughts ~ comments ~

1 comment:

  1. Ack! I commented on the wrong thread! I'll do a cut and paste. Can you delete this?


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