▲ Preliminary Meeting between AeSuhWon director Im Ae Duk and education officials of Jeju Provincial Government. Photo provided by AeSuhWon Sisters' Heights.
Education-related history is being made on Jeju.
An educational reform is in process that will permit the first “alternative school” – that is, a school or program which will provide a legal alternative to and equivalent of the public school requirement.
In the mainland, there are schools often referred to as “alternative” in that their educational format does not follow the standard. Montessori schools are a prime example of this, and there are others.
They are elite private schools and there are now approximately 200 of them, as the debate in Korea continues to rage over reforming the country's exam-based, teacher-centered educational approach.
These schools, in addition to their nontraditional methods, provide an option for those “at-risk” children who do not fit into the traditional system.
They may have been expelled, voluntarily dropped out, gotten into legal trouble, or fallen so far behind in their education that it is impossible for them to catch up to their classmates.
Or, they may have social or behavioral difficulties that render impossible their participation in the standard school setting.
The current dropout rate in Korea is approximately 10 percent of all students – this, in a country which holds education in high esteem and which is second only to Canada for university degrees per capita.
No alternative school yet exists on Jeju – but the first of its kind will open this fall.
The school, to be situated within the AeSuhWon Sisters’ Heights Center for Single Mothers in Chungsu Village, will provide education for those young women who have had to leave school because they are pregnant.
▲ Meeting to finalize details of MOU: Council member Kim Yeong Sim, Education Inspector Kim Soon Kwan, AeSuhWon director Im Ae Duk, and several government officials. Photo provided by AeSuhWon Sisters' Heights.
A meeting was held on May 4 in the office of Council member Kim Yeong Sim. Present were Im Ae Duk, director of AeSuhWon; Kim Soon Kwan, education office inspector; and, several government officials.
Though it was anticipated that an MOU would be signed on that day, the legal action was postponed to a later date. The school is guaranteed to be granted its license, however.
Heated discussion over details ensued, with the education inspector focused strongly on budgetary issues. His primary concern appeared to be the prohibition against permitting students who have already legally dropped out of school to “drop back in” by registering for an alternative school.
This will require a close relationship between the staff of the alternative school and local teachers and guidance counselors, so that pregnant girls must be informed of their option for the alternative school before they drop out of the public school system.
The endeavor and its impact on Jeju society cannot be overstated.
As the first alternative school on Jeju, it sets a precedent whereby other alternative schools can more easily be approved in the future.
As a second consideration, the stigma around unwed mothers is still great, and the development of such a school stands to lessen that impact.
Thirdly, the central government's Single Parent Act in no way prohibits pregnant girls from attending school. However, in common practice schools still require or pressure these girls to drop out – perhaps because, although the issue has been successfully argued before the Human Rights Commission, there has been no landmark court case to date.
History in the making. Society in the process of change.
Dr. Hilty is a cultural health psychologist.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.net)
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