Korean schools and mentally handicapped students

3 Sep

One of the first of many differences between South African schools and Korean schools noticed was the presence of mentally handicapped students.  I am not sure of the exact number of these students in my school but I have roughly about 5 mentally challenged kids in every grade.  This came as a surprise to me that these kids go to a ‘regular’ school.  Now I do know that we have a special needs class but that teacher only comes three times a week and only see them once a day.  The rest of the time these mentally challenged kids are among the regular kids.  Back home this is completely unprecedented.  We have separate special schools for kids with special needs.  And their educators are all specially trained to handle these kids.  And by trained I mean they have degrees in ‘special needs education’.

Even though these kids are among the rest of the students they seldom  take part in any class activities.  It’s okay for them to just sit there.  They are not obliged to do anything.  In many cases, when they have the capacity to, they do take part in my lessons and I find it very enriching and motivating.  Also these kids always smile!

One of the most inspiring things I have witnessed in Korea is how these ‘challenged’ students’ peers look out for them.   They assist them in class.  Encourage them to participate.  When they get rowdy and out of control (which has happened a few times) the students take it upon themselves to try to get the kid under control (very gently).  This happened today in my second grade class.  One of the mentally handicapped students continuously disrupted the class and stood up and walk around.  My Korean co-teacher got very annoyed by it and kind of raised her voice.  But the students were the ones who got him under control.  They grabbed him by the arm when he wanted to run out of the class and actually lead him back to his seat.  the girl sitting next to him patted him on the shoulder trying to calm him down.  This happened again and again and again . . .

I’m not qualified in any way to pass judgement on the practicality and even morality of placing mentally handicapped students among non-handicapped kids.  I do not know anything on how to deal with students who are handicapped and certainly do not know hot to teach them.  I just treat them like all my other students.  Except I don’t look like I want to kill them when they are rowdy, as opposed to my other students.

I’ve had an issue with a mentally handicapped student for a while now.  Whenever I would walk the hallways of the school, this could would approach and immediately grab my face.  He actually grabbed my beard once and pulled it.  Other time he poked my face and touched my chest.  This has happened at least four times and earlier this week again.  o today when I had him in one of my classes I told my co-teacher about this and if she could do something about it.  You see I would try and talk to the kid myself but there’s kind of a language barrier.  Now I’m not sure if she is going to talk to this kid about not touching me anymore because all she told me “yeah he’s kind of special student and he has some problem” – just like that word for word.

The fact that there are special needs students mixed in with regular students is something that is completely strange to me and the way Koreans handle them are both pleasing and kind of disturbing.  But hey, I’m not here to judge or change a system!

Cheers from Kimchiland!

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One Response to “Korean schools and mentally handicapped students”

  1. christodewit September 3, 2010 at 15:00 #

    o and by the way 6 Months down!!!!!!!

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