23 SES 11 D, Standardising Education Policy and Practice
This paper discusses the hidden side of legalized education reform. Reform proposals which are enshrined in law are generally welcomed in South Korea, because enacting laws is believed to guarantee the sustainability of reform. Reforming education often operates under the pretence that constant reform is equivalent to constant educational improvement. However, continuous reform may not guarantee success and teachers and students, as ‘agents’ in the education system, may experience unpredicted negative consequences of legalized reform. Using the concept of the colonization of the life-world ('Lebenswelt') by Jürgen Habermas (1987), this paper evaluates school-level effects of the law for the prevention and handling of school bullying (MOE 2002, 2005; Chu 2013). Research findings from interviews with ten elementary and secondary school teachers revealed both the positive and the ‘dark’ side of the enactment of this law. Since bullying emerged as a pressing social issue in Korea in the 1980s, the government responded with measures to reduce the occurrence of bullying in schools. The widely welcomed measures included safeguarding victims and penalizing the perpetrators. The enactment of this law considerably changed the way teachers address school bullying. The law alerts students and teachers to the serious effects of bullying and the incidents of bullying in schools have consistently decreased as a result (Bax 2016). However, the implementation of the anti-bullying law has also eroded the school site in many ways. The law substituted teachers with school policemen or jurists. Because the law emphasizes the procedural aspects of treating school bullying cases, jurists and policemen are recognized as professionals with greater expertise than teachers. As a result, teachers have been alienated from the process. The problem here is that the foremost aim of the law is not educating or nurturing students but assuring the fair treatment of bullying incidents. Schools have, therefore, taken on the function of courtrooms where students are judged and punished if found ‘guilty’. The life-world of a school as a place where the bully may learn from his mistakes, the victim may forgive and stand up to the bully and the teacher may enhance students’ understanding of the psychological and moral consequences of bullying has thus been taken over by a functional system for ‘policing’ schools and administering ‘justice’. The teachers participating in this study relayed experiencing a range of role conflicts and psychological pressure due to the colonization of their role as educators by the legalized anti-bullying reform.
Bax, T.M. 2016. A Contemporary History of Bullying and Violence in South Korean Schools, Asian Culture and History 8(2): 91-106. Chu, C. 2013. Teen's death spurs call for action against bullying. The Korea Herald. http://nwww.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20130313000936. MOE (Ministry of Education and Human Resources in Korea). 2002. A guideline to counter violence at school. Seoul: Ministry of Education and Human Resources. MOE (Ministry of Education and Human Resources in Korea). 2005. 5 Year basic plan for preventing violence in school from 2005 to 2009. Seoul: Ministry of Education and Human Resources.
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