Ethical standards decline among young people: survey

Seoul (The Korea Herald/ANN) - Four out of 10 high school students are willing to risk imprisonment for 1 billion won (US$942,000) and seven out of 10 do not feel guilty for plagiarizing homework, according to a survey released Monday.

Young Korean Academy, a youth movement group, unveiled its poll of about 6,000 primary and secondary school students that highlighted their deteriorating sense of ethics and growing leaning toward material values.

The researchers attributed the trend to their exposure to greed, fraud and irresponsibility rampant in Korean society and the cutthroat competition to excel on school tests.

When asked whether they would commit a crime and serve one year in jail for 1 billion won, 44 percent of high school students, 28 percent of middle school students and 12 percent of elementary school students answered positively.

Of them, 73 percent of high school students also answered that it is acceptable to plagiarize materials from the Internet when doing homework, and 68 percent and 47 percent of middle and elementary school students, respectively, responded the same.

The survey also showed that 35 percent of high school students, 24 percent of middle school students and 5 percent of elementary school students believed it is acceptable to lie to parents regarding grades.

"Students should have stronger ethical standards in proportion to their education level, but in reality the opposite seems to be true," said Ahn Jong-bae, a media professor at Hansei University, who led the research.

Its "honesty index" showed that ethical standards appear to get weaker as students grow older. Elementary students scored 85, middle school students, 75; and high school students, 67.

"As students grow older, parents tend to concentrate more on making sure that their children get high scores on standardized school exams. As a result, the guidance students receive at home appears to be insufficient to build a strong ethical character," the group said.

The study was conducted by Heungsadan Transparency Movement, the group's anti-corruption arm, in Seoul, Gyeonggi Province and Incheon last December on 2,000 elementary, middle and high school students, respectively. Participants were given a questionnaire with specific comments such as "It is acceptable for my parents to provide special gifts to my teacher so I can receive perks," with which they should agree or disagree.

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