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South Korean teachers say they have it tough.
Their complaints include pupils assaulting them in the classroom, lawsuits from unhappy parents, and stress that turns their hair gray, the Telegraph reported.
The salaries of teachers early in their careers, furthermore, are among the lowest in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, wrote the Korea Herald. Teachers who have more than 15 years of experience earn more than the average, however, meaning those who stick it out might be compensated for their troubles.
These issues are important because education in South Korea is currently in a state of crisis.
Recently, hundreds of thousands of educators in the country took to the streets to demand protection and other measures after a 23-year-old elementary school teacher in Seoul committed suicide in her classroom in July. Tens of thousands walked off their jobs.
Violent students, the daily workload, and parental complaints at the teacher’s school were at “an incomprehensibly immense level,” according to the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union, reported the Korea Times. School administrators, however, denied that any violence took place at the school, eliciting criticism that they were attempting to downplay the tragedy.
An important aspect of this story is the hyper-competitiveness of South Korean schools and the intense pressure cooker-like atmosphere that surrounds exams, the Guardian explained. Students regularly go to private tutors after school, too, and study at night.
This harsh culture has caused teacher suicides in South Korea, noted CNN.
For the past six years through June, about 100 public school teachers have committed suicide in the country. Fifty-seven were in elementary schools, Reuters reported.
In 2014, the country enacted a law that allowed citizens to report a suspected case of child abuse without needing to show evidence for their claims. The teachers’ union said that 60 percent of educators have been accused. Investigations and court cases to get to the bottom of claims can last a year.
Teachers, for example, are asking for legislation to grant them immunity from child abuse claims that parents are leveling at teachers who reprimand students for bad behavior, for example making children stand in class after they forget their books and other materials multiple times.
“We’re asking the government to provide a specific manual for dealing with misbehaving students,” teacher Son Gyeong-eun told the New York Times. “Reasonable discipline shouldn’t count as child abuse.”
In response, officials told the teachers that under South Korean law, teacher strikes were illegal and threatened disciplinary action, prompting Education International, an international federation of teachers’ unions and professional groups, to call on the government to uphold their rights to collective action.
For the teachers, it’s a matter of life and death.