Have you ever heard the expression, “Character should be taught”? The Korean Government enacted the world’s first law that stipulates attributes of human education as a compulsion. This law named Character Education Promotion Act in 2014 was established in order to educate students’ nature in the school. In order to set up a comprehensive character education plan, every school should operate an educational curriculum based on students’ personality according to this law. Teacher training institutes should open required classes to strengthen the capability for developing human nature; moreover, instructors must take a training course to learn how to coach ‘character’ in the right way. This education is going on under the general outline of aims to raise pupils as mature talented persons of the community. However, various school violence cases or conflicting problems between teachers and students raises the question of whether or not the law has been enforced properly.
The application of this new law into the school system has been perfunctory at best. In this law, it is considered to be possible that students can build up their healthy personality through vitalization of physical education. As a result, all pupils must participate in at least one school sport or club activity, and a lesson hour in physical education course for high school seniors has increased from once to twice a week. Busan Metropolitan Office of Education has also converted their whole creative experiential activities into physical activities; however, discussion or self-study is still done with connivance in physical education class as before the application of this law. In the survey taken by Korean Federation of Teachers’ Association (KFTA), 804 teachers responded that character education is not executed properly (55.3%). They also responded education for the entrance examination (55.3%) and policy-driven education (21.5%) as the main causes of this problem.
There are also some other factors. The idea that human personality can be ‘taught’ like other subjects has spread and, schools have deemed ‘character’ as a separated subject like Korean or mathematics. For example, there are some unique subjects named philosophy for freshman and character for sophomores in Shinseong Girls’ High School located in Jeju, which are scheduled once a week. Students share their opinions through presentation or discussion after watching related videos or make a specific performance plan about eight elements of human nature mentioned in the Character Education Promotion Act. However, there is a question of the efficiency in this class. Yang Hye-eun majoring in German Education said, “By taking this class, doubt arises as to whether our personality is cultivated for certain or not.” Moreover, there is a concern about it since it considers students as an object of reformation on the assumption that students are not right in terms of character. In regard to this, “It is a dangerous thought to standardize a content of education with setting value,” said American Federation of Teachers executive vice president.
Each school has implemented character education adequate for each, but problems mentioned above are proposed after an enforcement of the law. “Educational authorities should accept problems suggested, and they have to prepare institutional, social complements to embody the intent of this law,” said KFTA. Therefore, many experts claim that a revised version that reflects requirements advised in schools with active endeavor toward the proper educating system is needed.
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