A debate is raging in South Korea about how to discipline schoolchildren. The government banned corporal punishment in all schools earlier this year but teachers are struggling to find alternatives to control classes.
For decades, corporal punishment was part of South Korea's educational tradition
For many decades, corporal punishment was seen as part of South Korea's Confucian educational tradition. Misbehaving students would receive strikes over their hands with what some euphemistically called the "stick of love."
But some teachers took it too far and corporal punishment has now been banned. The government decision was partly triggered by a video that was posted on the internet and caused outrage. A sixth-grade pupil used a cell phone to secretly record the beating of a classmate. In the video, the teacher can be seen pushing and punching the boy as the other children look on.
This video of a teacher beating a student caused outrage
A nationwide ban on corporal punishment came into effect on March 1. Since then, some educators have been trying to find alternative ways of maintaining order in the classroom.
Laps and push-ups instead of smacks
The principal of the Jung-ang girl's school in Seoul, Ra Dong Chul, supports the ban on corporal punishment but points out that the new guidelines do not rule out indirect ways of physically disciplining students.
"Schoolchildren could be made to stand for long periods of time during class, or they to run laps around the playground or pick up trash in the neighborhood," he says.
The Ministry of Education has said that to force students to do push-ups is still an acceptable punishment.
However, Dong Hoon Chan from the Korean Teachers' and Education Workers' Union says that indirect physical discipline is no better than corporal punishment.
"We support non-physical discipline," he says. "Such as sending kids to a self-reflection room or to go on a mountain hike with a teacher to help improve communication skills."
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He also says that the Ministry of Education should have discussed alternative methods of keeping classes under control with teachers more before the ban took effect.
Students think 'stick of love' was good
Some schoolchildren say the ban is a mistake. Park Bum-jun (18) thinks that teachers have been left without any authority and bad schoolchildren are taking advantage of the situation.
"Since the ban started, some kids have hit their teachers because they know they can get away with it. I know the ban was supposed to protect students' human rights, but it's really hurting the teachers rights now," he says.
South Korean children used to be disciplined with the "stick of love"
"I think our society needs some kind of punishment to make students change their behavior," agrees 17-year-old Lee Chun Joo.
"Teachers didn't hit students out of anger - it was to make them better students. They wanted their students to succeed. This was our tradition," he says, insisting this is how the "stick of love" got its name.
Author: Jason Strother
Editor: Anne Thomas