[EDITORIALS]Better Education, Not BiggerThe resistance of education university students to the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development's decision to assign holders of secondary school teacher qualifications to elementary school posts, starting next year, is becoming greater. Students at 11 education universities boycotted classes and are considering not appearing at the state examinations used to assign elementary school teachers.
The defiance of the university students is the result of the education ministry's shortsightedness that could not look into the future beyond two years. In 1999, the Education Ministry predicted that 21,000 elementary, middle and high school teachers would leave their posts when it lowered the mandatory retirement age for teachers from 65 to 62. However, by the end of February 2001, 42,000 teachers had resigned. Among them, 29,000 had left their posts voluntarily. In elementary schools, 22,000 teachers resigned, which was four times the number predicted by the Education Ministry. This resulted in an acute shortage of elementary school teachers. Therefore, the teachers who had resigned were called in to serve under contract as temporary teachers since last year. Then the Education Ministry set a goal of reducing the number of students per class in our elementary schools to 35 by 2003. Then the ministry announced that it should recruit 23,600 teachers to fill the gap in the supply of teachers, which made people question the credibility of the government branch.
It makes sense to reduce the number of students per class in order to reshape public education, which is in shatters, and to strengthen the competitiveness of Korean education. A crowded classroom is not an appropriate place to train the creative talents that are demanded by a knowledge-based society. However, the government is confusing the order of things to be accomplished by transforming existing laboratories and gymnasiums into classrooms to meet the deadline of securing additional classrooms by 2003.
The Education Ministry should not force its policies with haste to meet a deadline. It should be more farsighted. The ministry should draw up a new plan to fill vacant posts with teachers and reduce the number of students per classroom.