The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education recently promulgated a controversial ordinance to protect the rights of students, but the education ministry has filed a petition with the supreme court to invalidate it, saying it could create confusion in schools, especially among teachers.
The decree stipulates certain freedoms for students but lacks provisions for educators to hold them to account if their behavior violates school regulations.
It includes regulations prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or religion and corporal punishment.
First of all, I would like to point out the reason why this ordinance is right. Because without it what little rights students had would have been trampled on further.
Those who oppose the ordinance have raised concerns about the maturity of student’s, arguing they will abuse these rights, especially against teachers, because they are not fully developed mentally and physically.
In the eyes of adults, students are not yet fully grown, not wise to the ways of the world, and are still vulnerable to negative influences, so they need constant supervision, guidance and even physical punishment. These negative views of young people are based on ingrained attitudes.
I think the way adults see minors must change. Young people are not as selfish, immoral, faithless or wicked as their elders might think.
Yes, they display some anti-social behavior like bullying or coming into conflict with fellow students. But they learn such things from adults.
We, adults, have shown them bad examples such as being strong and exploiting the weak and to use any means to succeed. Young people are exposed to this kind of behavior every day and have been completely infected by it.
Nevertheless, adults tend to blame students for anything negative that happens in schools, arguing therefore they should be disciplined and subjected to force.
In the circumstances, adults might think this recent ordinance, which will also give students the freedom to wear make-up, not wear uniforms etc., will encourage rebelliousness.
But I think adults are too short-sighted and that we need to trust young people more.
I seriously suggest thinking about what true education is and how we can realize it. Most importantly, we should build a deeper trust in and a more positive view toward young people since the ordinance alone cannot solve school problems.
We should not look down on students just because they are young. They already have the ability to know what is right and wrong. They also have enough passion to follow the examples of people who are good role models.
In this respect, I think the role of their teachers is very important as this is directly linked with realizing true education.
To get young students to blossom, we need to give them freedom, trust and love, not restrictions and controls.
I want to suggest one more thing which is to guarantee teachers’ rights too. This is because true education is not possible if teachers are not respected in school.
A teachers' ordinance is no less important than a student one.
When teachers’ rights are protected, they can contribute to realizing true education in schools by showing a good example to their students.
Jesuit Father Bonaventure Yu Shi-chan is chairman of the board of the Jesuit-run Sogang University
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