Seoul Considers Lifelong Learning Centers for "Slow Learners"

Ryu In-ha 2021. 9. 15. 17:07
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Illustration by Kim Sang-min

The Kyunghyang Shinmun confirmed on September 14 that the Seoul metropolitan government has begun promoting a lifelong education center for people with borderline intelligence functioning (BIF) for the first time in Korea. Borderline intelligence functioning describes people who are not diagnosed with an intellectual disability, but who fail to meet normal intellectual functioning. Usually, they have an IQ of 71-84 and are known as slow learners.

In the past, there was no state support for people with BIF. They were excluded from various state programs for the disabled, because they were always on the border between people with and without disabilities. People with BIF face challenges, such as poor performance in schools, maladjustment, and failure to lead independent lives throughout their entire lives, but since they can’t be registered as intellectually disabled, they hardly receive welfare benefits, such as support in education and employment. Domestic research on BIF is also just taking its first baby steps.

Thus, various policies on BIF are mostly attached with the modifier, “first,” when they are implemented. But in South Korea, there are more people with BIF than people registered as disabled. Of the total 9.83 million citizens of Seoul, 1.34 million or 13.6% are estimated to have BIF. This is a bigger number than the 393,408 (4.1%) people registered as disabled in Seoul at the end of last year.

Last October, the Seoul metropolitan government enacted an ordinance to support lifelong learning for people with BIF for the first time in the nation. This means, the legal basis to support lifelong learning for people with BIF was enacted as a local ordinance for the first time only last year. Seocho-gu was also the first local district to enact a similar ordinance at the gu level last February.

Centers providing lifelong learning to people with BIF are necessary for these people need to be educated in all situations literally throughout their entire lives. Since 2019, the city had run a project to support the independence of children with BIF at child welfare facilities, a project to support the independence of slow learners among young people, and a pilot project to establish a system supporting the independence of slow learners, but they ended up as one-time events even within the metropolitan government. So there was a need to provide more structured and continuous support measures. The Seoul metropolitan government plans to design a specific plan and begin establishing the center as soon as the relevant budget is finalized in November. However, a representative of the metropolitan government said, “Since we are still reviewing the issue with the doors open to all possibilities, we are not at a stage to disclose specific plans.”

Chae Yu-mi, a member of the Seoul Metropolitan Council who proposed the Seoul ordinance on lifelong learning for people with BIF told the reporter over the phone this day, “Setting up a lifelong learning center for people with BIF is just the first step for such people,” and added, “At present, the city is working to open just one center in the city center, but in the long term, we need to open more centers for people with BIF and operate them in all areas in Seoul, allowing people with BIF and their families to receive services near their place of residence.”

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