On the Korean Education System...
- School uniforms are expensive. When I asked a class what they would do with immense wealth, one student replied that he'd buy all the uniforms that he wanted (in addition to cars, video games, etc). Hyeyoung explained to me that uniforms are quite expensive. Sometimes even costing up to $1000. What!?! They also have many trendy uniform lines, endorsed by celebrities, hence the ridiculous pricing.
- Certain schools forbid girls from having long hair. I do not know anything about the reasoning behind this rule, but that explains a lot of the unflattering short, hair-dos that I see around town. I understand the mandated short hair, but what's the deal with all the choppy, bowl-cut style bangs? Is that a school rule as well?
- Teachers still employ corporal punishment. Okay, it's probably not that extreme, but one student wrote that his teacher wacks him if he misbehaves. For some reason, I didn't think such practices were still going on, at least not in Seoul.
- Teachers will sometimes take students on an intimate retreat on the mountain. One of my students recently came to class noticeably exhausted. He explained to me that he had spent ten hours on a mountain with his teacher. "Oh, a class retreat?" I asked. Nope. Apparently, it was just a retreat for the teacher, the class president, and my student, the class vice president. Maybe it's because I watch too much Law & Order SVU, but such a scenario set off the alarm bells in my head. Two students, alone with a teacher, on a mountain for ten hours, is virtually unheard of in the States, and would likely be considered inappropriate. "Wow," I exclaimed. "Were you chosen because you were a class leader?" Apparently, the teacher will occasionally take students, who are not getting along, to the mountain retreat to resolve any conflicts. However, he and the class president were invited to discuss student government matters. I'm still a bit fuzzy on the details, but I did not want to pry -- to much. I then, asked my student what they did on the mountain. He told me that they "talked, hiked, rested", ate, and talked..." His nonchalant tone me reassured me that nothing shady went on, but I can't stop thinking that a ten-hour, three-person mountain retreat seems quite unnecessary. Sounds like some sly teacher figured out a way to get out of a day of teaching...
Sadly, my knowledge of current events in Korea is limited to the realm of entertainment and pop culture. Thankfully, my junior high students aren't so ignorant. I'm sure that their opinions are heavily influenced by extremely biased adults, but this is what my students taught me about the Korean political scene:
- Korea is in for another presidential election.
- Unfortunately, ALL the candidates are corrupt and untrustworthy.
- Korean politicians will make all sorts of promises, but not carry through on any of them.
- South Korea's current president, "Mr. No" is especially corrupt. Everyone hates him, including foreign heads of state. Edit: My student recommends presidential candidate, "Mr. Lee", who is apparently the least corrupt of all the men running.
- Fortunately, presidents are only allowed to hold office for one term of four years.
- Presidential candidates must be at least 40 years old.
- Koreans are allowed to start voting at the age of 21.
To my surprise, they were also interested in American politics. American kids barely know what's going on at home, let alone the political happenings abroad. Or, maybe that's just me? One student strongly endorsed Presidential candidate, Barak Obama. He eagerly asked me if I was going to vote in the forthcoming presidential election. "Of course!" I replied. So, now I really do have to vote. ;)
Some of my students are currently infatuated with this "Potter Puppet Pals" video. You can check it out for yourself.
Teaching is quite a unique educational experience, and as an eternal nerd, I'm totally eating it all up.