Stage Set for Education Wars
Teacher unions will go on strike this Saturday in protest against new teacher evaluations the government insists will go ahead on a trial basis in some 50 schools. But that is only part of a head-on clash between unions and the Education Ministry.
The Korean Teachers’ Union (KTU) also announced it will defy the ministry by using controversial class materials critical of this month’s APEC summit, which were prepared by the union’s Busan chapter, in schools nationwide while the summit is underway in the city.
The ministry was unmoved on Monday, instructing education officials to accept applications from schools that want to take part in the pilot project until Nov. 15. The scheme, already a compromise version that introduces peer evaluations and questionnaires for students and parents, is to be trialed in 48 schools in 16 provinces and cities until August next year.
The KTU has declared an all-out war against the scheme. Besides the strike, it is has also vowed to campaign for the ouster of Education Minister Kim Jin-pyo. The Korea Federation of Teachers Associations also wants the minister out and is planning a demonstration of some 20,000 teachers in front of Seoul Station on Saturday. The ministry says it will take disciplinary action against teachers who take the day off to join the protest without permission from their principals.
KTU says it will use the satirical APEC teaching aids but delete segments containing abusive language from an accompanying video that lampoons President Roh Moo-hyun and U.S. President George W. Bush. “The government says APEC promotes globalization and boosts the Korean economy, it is also true that ordinary people around the world are strongly opposed to globalization and to George W. Bush,” the union said.
Save Education From the Teachers Union
The Korea Teachers and Educational Workers Union (KTU) on Monday asked its members to vote on plans to go on strike on Saturday in protest at the government’s plan to introduce new teacher evaluations. The union plans sit-in protests at city and provincial education offices, protest rallies and a campaign for the education minister's ouster.
The KTU is the most powerful interest group and the largest union in the country. One in every three teachers is unionized, or 250,000 in all. The union’s annual budget stands at W22 billion (US$22 million), four to five times that of the Korea Confederation of Trade Unions (W5 billion) and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (W4 billion). Backed by that budget, the KTU maintains no fewer than 107 full-time officials at its Seoul headquarters and 16 city and provincial chapters, and they are engaged upon the task of coordinating the union’s struggle and developing its ideology. What they come up with are things like a satirical video full of four-letter words that is meant as a teaching aid for the APEC summit.
The KTU problem goes beyond the present ruckus to the future of a nation whose children are being educated by members of the union, and it goes beyond education and to the heart of the country’s malaise.
We have no mineral or marine resources to speak of. Our future depends solely on teaching children well and nurturing outstanding minds. That is the job we entrust teachers with. But the KTU uses the massive power of its organization only to hurt the nation’s educational competitiveness.
Many citizens sympathized with the struggle for genuine education that occupied the KTU in its early days. The union helped reduce the rampant bribery of teachers and weed out corruption and irregularities in school management. But those days of pure motives are in the past. Now unionized teachers are bent on nothing but holding on to their rice bowls. That is why they are so relentlessly opposed to teacher evaluations that are essential if they are to improve their performance.
The KTU already virtually abolished the nationwide scholastic assessment survey. Because of union opposition, a sample of only 3 percent of third-graders is being evaluated in assessments launched in 2002. No comparison by school, region, and city and provincial Education Office is being carried out. That makes life very easy for teachers, since no comparative record of their performance is available.
Performance-related pay, introduced in 2001, is also a mere fig-leaf thanks to union agitation. Of W349.2 billion earmarked for performance bonuses this year, 90 percent is being paid equally to every teacher in the land, and only 10 percent is paid for good performance, with the maximum income difference between a teacher who works herself into an early grave and a bone-idle one amounting to a proud W50,000.
Of course the KTU is against opening education as well, mortally afraid that it will expose uncompetitive education for what it is. The union also is against teaching that differentiates between students according to their level of understanding -- on the grounds that it will create “division.” In a "Comprehensive Public Education Reform Program” it formulated last year, the KTU called for the abolition of Seoul National University's undergraduate courses and for a single unified entrance exam for the country's national and public universities.
It also proposed a maximum quota for graduates from certain universities among high-ranking civil servants, equalizing education nationwide, and closing down foreign-language and private high schools. At the same time it wants the number of teachers increased from 480,000 to 800,000, reasoning that the best way of improving education is to reduce the workload of teachers.
Wake up. China is training 13 million prospective teachers at junior colleges and 8 million in four-year universities. It is a great educational power, turning out 165,000 people with doctorates and 654,000 with master degrees a year. Under a private education development law in force since 2003, China authorizes private secondary schools to charge as much for tuition as they see fit and formulate their curricula on their own. They can dismiss incompetent teachers whenever they want.
Japan meanwhile, starting with Greater Tokyo in 2000, introduced its own teacher evaluation system whereby incompetent teachers are sent for retraining and those who still don’t make the cut fired. High school entrance exams were reintroduced and equalization is being scrapped in phases. Major corporations are opening elite schools in a bid to produce top talent.
Korea alone is bucking the worldwide trend of educational reform. The administration and ruling party are bent on hobbling private schools with a new law, and when Seoul National University announced a plan for essay tests to screen applicants, it provoked an unprecedented uproar in the ruling camp. The KTU, meanwhile, has proposed that teachers should elect their principals.
The Lunatics Are Trying to Take Over the Asylum
Teacher Evaluations to Go Ahead Despite Protests
Stage Set for Education Wars
Save Education From the Teachers Union
The Education Ministry is piloting teacher evaluations in 48 schools across the country starting in the middle of this month. The Korea Teachers and Educational Workers Union (KTU) is threatening to fight the entire scheme by way of industrial action and campaign for the education minister’s ouster.
Already the evaluation system the ministry will implement is significantly moderated from its original plan. First, teachers will mainly evaluate one another, while parents and students are relegated to one or two questionnaires a year. Parents are not even allowed to give their opinions of individual teachers: they are merely to be asked if their children are satisfied with their school life. Under the original plan, by contrast, they would have observed classes and assessed teachers. In short, the immediate consumers of education are to be little more than bystanders.
The sole purpose of the evaluations will be to inform individual teachers how they are doing, so they can reflect and improve their performance, and the KTU insists even principals must be kept from seeing the results. In consultations, the teacher organizations extracted a promise from the ministry that the records will not be used in personnel decisions. All students and parents can hope for, then, is that the teachers really do reflect on their results.
Yet watered-down though this is to the point of constituting no evaluation at all, the KTU will not stand for it unless the current duty assessment is abolished too. Under that system, teachers are evaluated by principals and vice principals, and the scores are reflected in promotion. On top of that, the KTU won’t even have school administrators sitting on the school committees that will decide the methods of evaluation.
Yet if the evaluations are to have no impact on a teacher’s career while the duty assessment is scrapped, there will of course be no way left to reward competent and sincere teachers for doing a good job. Next, the KTU wants teachers to elect their principals, so it can completely neutralize administrators and grab control of schools itself. Only once that is done will the union at last be free to entrench its vested interests at leisure and go undisturbed about filling the heads of our children with the screaming nonsense that passes for its worldview.