Professors and students speak up for special education environment
Professors and students speak up for special education environment
  • Oh Yoon
  • 승인 2011.11.04 13:22
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Mass silent rally held in hopes to improve special education environment
A recently released Korean film, “Dogani,” has been hitting the Korean Box Office, attracting more than 4.5 million viewers. What drove the nation’s fury and attention to this film, which depicts an actual case of child sexual and physical abuse in a school of disabled in Gwangju from 2000 to 2007, were the inhumane conditions of special education facilities in Korea.
In accordance with the recent attention to special education, the students and professors from special education department nationwide organized silent demonstrations due to insufficient certificate quota of the teacher certification examination for special education drove.
The controversies leading to the demonstrations started on Oct. 3 when the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) announced the certificate quota of the teacher certification examination for special education as 135 for 2011, less than half the 700 for 2007.
The Special Education Laws for Persons with Disabilities and Others specifically states that the legal ratio of special education teachers to students should be one to four. However, the guideline is not being kept. There are only 9,182 special education teachers, which is 56.4 percent of the 16,264 needed. Keeping the teacher to student ratio is crucial in special education area since disabled students require four times more care than students without disabilities. The MEST has been dealing with this shortage by employing non-certified teachers with only 60 hours of practical education.
University students and professors in special education were quick to react to the MEST’s announcement. The deans of special education departments of Korean universities issued a joint statement about the teacher’s certificate quota for 2011 on Oct. 12. Professors also started silent one-man-protests around Seoul from Oct. 13. 
“There will be a continuing vicious cycle in the special education system as long as there are not enough teachers in special schools,” said professor Ryu Jae-yeon (Korea Nazarene University), who has been holding a one-man-protest for three weeks from Oct. 13. “We professors could not sit on our hands any longer.”
University students from special education departments organized the Korea Special Education Student Union and also started one-man-protests around Seoul from Oct. 15.
“It was raining on the day when I was out for a one-man-protest but it was okay since I was standing up for people in even worse conditions than mine,” said Jeon Bong-guen (Wongwang University, 4), a student who participated in a one-man-protest in front of the Main Gate of Ewha.
A large-scale silent rally was also held in front of the National Assembly in Yeouido on Nov. 5. ㅎTo raise this issue to the public, about 2,000 people, including university students and professors from special education departments and human rights advocates for people with disabilities, participated.
The students and the professors are asking for an immediate increase in special education teachers that will remain in place for several years.
“The number should be at least 700 new teachers for three years for the teacher to student ratio to meet legitimate standards,” said Park So-yeon (Special Education, 3), the president of Ewha special education department’s student council. Park is also in charge of the Seoul/Gyeonggi branch of the Korea Special Education Student Union.
The students and professors are not simply fighting for bigger job security for themselves or personal interests, but rather for a better education environment for disabled students in Korea and to protect their education rights.
“It is for the sake of proper special education,” Park said. “Our prospective pupils, the students with disabilities, require more attention and care. With this number of new teachers, there’s no way to meet the demands. I hope the public attention for the Dogani issue does not rest with the movie, but is actually of help in improving the special education environment.”

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