[EDITORIALS]Don't Tinker With Education Policy

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[EDITORIALS]Don't Tinker With Education Policy

The Grand National Party and the United Liberal Democrats agreed to revise the law governing the mandatory retirement age for teachers in this session of the National Assembly and push the retirement age back up by one year, to 63.

We can expect a controversy over those attempts. At the outset, the GNP wanted to restore the age-65 retirement eligibility. It agreed to the ULD's plan to add only one year to the current age-62 retirement eligibility after realizing it would be unrealistic to push the retirement age back up further. The GNP may send the bill to committee Tuesday.

To put the conclusion first, we are opposed to the GNP's plan. The retirement age was reduced to 62 from 65 after a vote at the National Assembly in January 1999. About 42,000 teachers have already been forced into early retirement. As the opposition parties claim, the move has led to some anomalies, such as temporarily rehiring retired teachers and recruiting secondary school teachers for elementary school posts after brief retraining. Some estimates put the number of temporarily hired teachers at elementary schools at 7,600 by 2003.

But there will be other ill effects from reversing course after three years. First is fairness to retired teachers. Why should they be the victims of the policy change?

Second, the new retirement age will not help much to solve the problem of the shortage of teachers. Adding one more year to the retirement age seems to go against the hopes of parents, the consumers of education services, who want change. Late last year, three-quarters of parents polled by phone opposed raising the retirement age again. Parents are positive about the lower retirement age.

Education policy should be conceived with thoughts of 100 years hence in mind. It should not be changed because of the political interests of a party or an administration.

If the GNP tries to extend the retirement age, it cannot avoid criticism that it is pandering to voters to win the local and presidential elections next year.

They can lose many more hidden votes than the apparent votes that they would gain from changing the retirement age. They should not mess with education policy.
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