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NHRC recommended to revise parts of textbooks (11-11-2002)

  • 2002-12-24
  • 1937

The NHRC, recommended revision of misleading parts of elementary, middle and high school textbooks (11-11-2002)

The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development will accept all recommendations and will distribute modified versions beginning in 2003.

The National Human Rights Commission recommended to the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development that 13 cases of texts in elementary, middle and high school textbooks, which might mislead students" human rights consciousness   should be revised.

Regarding this commendation, the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development gave an affirmative answer that it would accept all 13 items and would distribute modified versions to students from the first semester of 2003, while the ones already printed would be revised from 2004.

This recommendation of the NHRC on the revision of textbooks is based on Article 26 of National Human Rights Commission Act (Education and Public Awareness on Human Rights).

Paragraph 2 of Article 26 said that "The Commission may consult with the Minister of Education and Human Resources Development in order to include contents concerning human rights in the curriculum of schools under the provisions of Article 23 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act."

The NHRC recommended the revision after the NHRC analyzed with the help of experts, and textbooks covering 11 subjects for all grades of elementary schools, Korean, Korean History and Ethics for the first and second grades of middle schools, and the first grades of high schools

The NHRC analyzed elementary, middle, and high school textbooks on the basis of the Article about basic rights of the Constitution, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CEDAW), and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR).

The 13 cases recommended for revision are as the follows;

The contents which justify in the name of national interests and establishment order;

The contents which might violate civil rights of body and rights for lives;

The contents which justify the violation of personal rights of students;

The contents which can aggravate discriminations against women, minorities, the handicapped, and specific vocations

The following are main recommendations for revision.

1. "If somebody gets married to his housemaid, the GDP decreases,"

(In the textbook for social studies, the first grade of high school)

- This expression is a disparagement of a specific vocation. To illustrate, next to the passage was a drawing of a man, kneeling and offering a ring, proposing to a woman scrubbing the floor. The expression "housemaid" disparages that profession, while the picture aggravates prejudices about women. The example also did little to explain how GDP is calculated.

2. "If the handicapped can do work that is equal in quality and ability to what normal people can do, the handicapped should not be treated unfairly just because they are."

(In the textbook for social studies, the first grade of high school)

-       To use the word "normal" implies that all handicapped people

excluded from that category were abnormal, and thus the use of the word is improper.

3."A Clitoris is like the penis of a man. In the case of sexual excitement, it becomes congestive and stands erect. The clitoris is very sensitive part of a woman. Penis is the organ for urination. The size of adult penis is about 3 cm when not erect." (In the textbook of Physical Education, the first grade of high school)

- The genitals of man are described through its function, while those of women are described as sensitive parts relating sexual intercourse. This is stereotype against women and their sexual organs, which are recognized as merely sexual tools.

4. "Describing the symbolic landmarks of
Seoul City, Seoul"s colors are green for its mountains, blue for the Han River and "flesh(skin) color" for the sun." (In the textbook of Art, the first grade of high school)

- "The term, "flesh color" referring to the average Asian"s skin color, would offend the equal rights of those with different skin color, and the NHRC already recommended to the Korean Industrial Standards manual last August that the term "flesh color" violated the right for equality guaranteed by the Constitution and that the term should be revised. The alternative colors the NHRC suggested were "light apricot" and "light citrus."

5. "A family consists of a married couple and their children."(In the textbook of science for the first grade of middle school)

- Since the formation of families varies as society develops in
Korea, this definition should be changed.  This expression in the textbook could encourage to students the stereotype that anybody from a family that doesn"t fit the description is somehow incomplete or abnormal.

6 "Work time" refers to "office workers at work and students at school studying and housewives at home doing household chores." (In the textbook of science for the second grade of middle school)

- This expression makes women"s roles fixed as limited to house chores. It could aggravate gender discrimination. The definition of "house work" should be revised as "necessary labor in order to maintain domestic life and reproduction for working force.


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