The issue of violence in schools has become a rising problem in Korea. As a solution, the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology established the Wee project, a three-step counseling system that consists of Wee Class, Wee Center, and Wee School. The organization’s name is a combination of the word “we” with an additional “e” for education and emotion, two important aspects of counseling.
In 2009, two of the three Wee projects were incorporated on Jeju. The Wee Class, which offers counseling services in schools to students who suffer from any issue or problem, has been established in 18 high schools in Jeju City. The Wee Center, located within the Jeju City Office of Education, has been offering programs and counseling services to students who need more attention in an atmosphere where serious problems can be properly addressed.
The only program not to be introduced on the island is the Wee School, a boarding institution where students receive intensified counseling around the clock.
Like all of the Wee projects, the Wee Center’s services are based on the students’ willingness to participate.
“The main purpose and goal for the center is to give moral support to those students who have trouble adjusting themselves to school life,” said Jeju Wee Center Director Moon Myeong Hee.
The center also specifies their services into three steps: diagnosis, counseling, and treatment.
First, students are diagnosed based on the intensity of the problem.
“A majority of the students who contact us for our services are mainly concerned with their careers and school work,” said Moon. “It is crucial for them to know themselves better when it comes to studying and getting their work done.”
According to Moon, the center provides these students with aptitude tests to help understand where their interests lie, in hopes of better motivating them to study.
In situations of bullying, one of the more common cases the center encounters, ideally both the bully and the victim would receive counseling from the Wee Center.
“For the bully, we suggest repetitive counseling sessions with our staff who are certified psychologists. And we also recommend doing role play where the bully plays the victim and talks about the feelings one has felt while playing that role.”
Though, when it comes to helping victims of bullying, things become a little more difficult, says Moon.
“It is harder for us to contact the victim because they usually want to avoid the situation. So, the time and place for the sessions are scheduled at their convenience and usually the counseling is done for an extended period of time.”
For students who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, or any other problem that requires medical attention, treatment can be administered through facilities associated with the center.
One recent trend in Jeju that the center has become aware of is the growing number of multicultural students on the island. To prepare for possible issues arising from this trend in the future, the Wee Center is currently creating a network with Jeju multicultural organizations.
“There are a large number of students from multicultural families in elementary schools today. In a couple of years, they will become … teenagers,” said Moon. “This April, a multicultural center is planned to open in the Jocheon area also as a part of the Jeju City Office of Education. So, I expect that soon we will be able to work our way together for the betterment of the students’ lives in school.”
According to Moon, along with their day-to-day counseling services, every year the center selects a specific issue affecting students on Jeju and actively tries to fix the problem.
“This year, our target is students who don’t go to school. Our goal is to have them back in school with possibly different views and motivations,” Moon said.
To accomplish this goal, the Wee Center contacts schools in Jeju to find students who are not regularly attending class. If the student agrees to be involved in this project, they become involved with activities that enable them to investigate their interests. These activities, held three to four times a year, include camping, oreum hiking, and other outdoor experiences.
Recently, the Wee Center has moved to its present location and are busy promoting the facility and its services on the island through sending out brochures. Interested elementary, middle, and high schools can sign up for a visit from the center to counsel their students. After the consultation if it is deemed necessary students can then continue to receive counseling by visiting the Wee Center.
“So far it has been very successful,” said Moon, continuing that counselors at the center go out three to four times a week to various elementary and middle schools on Jeju.
In tandem with the center’s school visits, about four times a year they set up a booth in areas with high student traffic, like in front of Jeju City Hall, to help raise awareness of the facility. They provide brief counseling to students and encourage them to contact or visit the center if they want more in depth counseling.
With these efforts from the center, hopefully schools in Jeju will become a healthier environment for students to learn.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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