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Disrupting the Discourses of High School Dropouts in South Korea

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In the late 1990s proliferating discourses on “school breakdown” in South Korea provoked and intensified criticisms on school practices. Today, a growing number of students both criticise and leave school. These socio-cultural changes have altered the discursive terrain surrounding the notion of “dropouts”, shifting the typical conceptualisation and representation of “dropouts as problem youth” to “dropouts as school critics”. This article examines the socio-historical context within which the phenomenon of dropping-out is defined, portrayed, and conceptualised. Korean scholars and the media have focused exclusively on dropouts from middle-class backgrounds, thereby rendering the voices of dropouts from lower-class backgrounds as unheard, or have labelled them as “problem youth”. Such discourses over-represent dropouts of middle-class background and also underscore the ideological nature of the school as an institution which perpetuates social class difference. The notion of “schooling as a path to social mobility” remains unquestioned and it is this silence that marginalises lower-class youth.
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Keywords: South Korea; alienation; school dropouts; social class; youth

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Grand Valley State University

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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