Textbook revision to reflect changing society

Posted on : 2006-09-18 13:53 KST Modified on : 2006-09-18 13:53 KST
Ministry to quell gender stereotypes, notion of ’one blood’

School textbooks that use expressions that perpetuate stereotypical gender roles - such as "working father" and "housewife" - will be revised beginning next year. Additionally, textbooks which mention the benefits of family planning will be reworked to note the declining birthrate in South Korea.

The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development and the Presidential Committee on Aging Society and Population Policy announced yesterday that textbooks on social affairs, practical courses, and citizenship will be revised to reflect societal changes on issues involving population, family values, and roles of men and women. The textbooks will be in use beginning next year.

Elementary school textbooks will focus on multiple-child families, in some cases adding additional siblings to existing storylines. The ministry’s hope is that the changes will encourage a culture that embraces larger families in order to combat South Korea’s declining birth rate, currently the lowest in the developed world.

In addition, lines expressing stereotypical gender roles will be changed. New terms to be introduced include "working mother" and "father who takes care of household chores." Also subject to change are lines from sixth-grade social affairs textbooks, which say, "Father’s hard work as a breadwinner and mother’s supportive role to other family members, which enables them to concentrate on their work, are not only important for the well-being of the family but also that of the country."

To raise students’ awareness about the elderly as active participants in an increasingly aging society, negative images about the elderly - such as storylines or images depicting them lying around the house or sitting in senior centers - will be removed. Students will instead be instructed to consider the elderly as contributing members of society, rather than as dependent family members.

In addition, the shift in the nation’s family policy from "limiting childbirth" to "encouraging childbirth" will be covered. The current social affairs and citizenship textbooks used in middle and high schools include such lines as, "An enormous population increase has caused a number of problems like the destruction of the natural environment" or, "In an aging society, the only population that increases is the old and sick, and they become a social burden" or "a working mother doesn’t take care of house chores, so the house is a mess." The ministry plans to change those lines and to add content about the causes of and problems with a decreasing population as well as efforts to encourage women to pursue careers.

Additionally, expressions that reinforce discrimination against those of mixed-race backgrounds and immigrants, as well as excessive emphasis on Korea as a nation of "one blood," will disappear from textbooks.

The government said that ahead of the changes, it would publish supplementary material next month for use with current textbooks. It also said the curriculum would be changed accordingly.

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