A student named Oh Jung-ho threw his legs up on top of his desk with his arms folded in his pockets leaning his chair back against his locker, chewing gum as he watched his homeroom teacher, Miss Jung, enter the classroom. She led the morning meeting while noticing Oh's intentionally rude attitude, and later tussled with him while reprimanding his impolite attitude while he grabbed and twisted her in front of the entire class to see.
Suffice it to say, Jung had great difficulty in carrying out her responsibilities as a homeroom teacher because her class was regarded as the worst in the school. It was filled to the brim with troublemakers who had zero interest in learning and great interest in causing all kinds of trouble. Miss Jung was also bothered by some of the parents who tried to interfere in school affairs.
Have you watched the popular TV drama ''School 2013" which is causing controversy over the serious state of Korean schools? It is well-known that there is little instruction and discipline being administered by teachers and students show little respect to their teachers.
Instead, there is only a variety of selfish thoughts and behavior by students and parents' abnormal enthusiasm for their children's education, which has brought about all kinds of negative side effects, including violence at schools, bullying, rude behavior, and even physical acts against teachers. This has resulted from a dehumanized educational environment, due for example to the competition-based education policy of the Lee Myung-bak government, as well as parents' over-protection and abnormal educational enthusiasm.
It is true that more emphasis is being placed on students' rights than teachers' rights, and physical punishment has all but disappeared in classrooms. Students tend to think only of the enhancement of their personal right to do whatever they desire, including impolite and egoistical behavior. This is said to have resulted in various social problems, such as the increasing number of students committing suicide due to bullying and violence as well as teachers' loss of dignity, self-esteem, and even enthusiasm for teaching.
In my opinion, Korea is now experiencing a transition from a Confucianism-based educational environment advocating "a teacher's shadow should not even be stepped on and students should greatly revere their teachers" to a more human rights-focused educational environment based on the nuclear family, a repentance over the long-term prevalence of severe physical punishment, and an individuality-centered society.
Now is the time to seriously consider how to successfully see this transitional period through as we enter the newly-created educational environment that is based on the harmonization of teachers' rights, students' rights, the disappearance of physical punishment and parents' enthusiasm over their children's education and their prevalence for individuality.
In this way, students will be able to lead a more joyful and meaningful school life in accordance with a humanity-centered education that places emphasis on cooperation, creativity and flexibility rather than competition and survival as Korea becomes a developed country with the enhancement of creativity, individuality, variety and humanity as a center of the international community.
I really look forward to seeing Korean schools shift to more humanity-based classrooms with students' showing more respect to their teachers and teachers carrying out more human-oriented teaching with love and care for their students.
The writer is an English teacher at Jeonnam Middle School in Gwangju. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.