Teachers losing authority to entitled students

July 29, 2023 | 03:00 pm PT
Nguyen Nam Cuong Lecturer
A 23-year-old female teacher at Seoi primary school in Seocho, Seoul, chose to end her life last week due to pressure from work.

Several days earlier, a student in her class had scratched another's forehead with a pen. The latter's parents came to the school and harshly criticized the teacher for incompetence.

The death of the teacher caused headlines in South Korea. Many wreaths of flowers were sent to the school as condolences. But at the same time, there were parents who objected to any acts of sympathy for the teacher. They objected to many teachers changing their social media avatar to a black ribbon to commemorate their colleague. They said these actions adversely affected their children's mentality.

I asked my teacher colleagues in South Korea the reason for the problem. They said that when the society assesses people by the monetary parameter, people become cold-hearted with each other, even in the sacred teacher-student relationship.

People might have different opinions about teachers' ethics and responsibility in different countries. But as a teacher, in Vietnam, I have also seen it's harder to do the job than ever.

One of my colleagues teaching at a known university in the Mekong Delta was badmouthed by his own students on the city's confession page, just for being strict with them.

A teacher talks to her students in a classroom of a high-school in HCMC in 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

A teacher talks to her students in a classroom of a high school in HCMC in 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

Many universities now let students rate their teachers via regular surveys, giving the students all the power over the teachers' salary, promotion and even the chance of keeping their job. Many teachers thus have to reach a deal with their students. They become the easy teachers who do not require much, so that the students will leave them alone and rate them with mercy.

Many teachers can no longer do their job innocently. I have known teachers who sought treatment for stress and depression after being disrespected by their students, being targeted by students’ secret cameras that capture their every move and word. Some of the things that they do or say will be posted online, out of context, for the whole society to judge.

Back in the old days, we were scolded or hit by our teachers sometimes, and it was normal. We and our parents took it as due punishment.

But these days, a little criticism is taken as an excessively big deal by parents, whose reactions would be followed by their children.

Of course, there's a number of teachers who are violent to students, for different reasons. But other teachers should not lose their right to discipline students because of that.

Any parent has their moments of outbursts while teaching their two or three children. Each teacher needs to take care of dozens of children at a time. They won't be able to do their job if they are not allowed to use disciplinary actions.

After the death of the teacher at Seoi primary school, South Korea’s Deputy PM and education minister Lee Joo Ho announced on July 21 to amend regulations to give teacher more authority.

"It is urgent to balance the entitled educational environment centered on student rights by strengthening teachers’ rights for legitimate educational activities and life guidance," he said.

*Nguyen Nam Cuong is a lecturer at FPT University.

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