[EDITORIALS]Leave the Retirement Age Alone

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[EDITORIALS]Leave the Retirement Age Alone

The move to extend the retirement age for teachers to 63 from 62, endorsed by the main opposition Grand National Party and the minor opposition United Liberal Democrats, is unpopular with the public. The average voter cannot understand the opposition zeal for change when the benefits seem so ephemeral. What difference will a one-year extension make, especially since there was so much difficulty in changing the age from 65 to 62 a few years ago? The Grand National Party argues that the move will put more teachers in classrooms and boost teacher morale. Unsaid is that the party is also avenging its political defeat when the ruling party and the United Liberal Democrats forced the lower retirement age through the Assembly in 1999. But claims about more teachers and higher morale are not credible.

A one-year extension will not bring much change on the front lines of teaching. According to Education Ministry figures, 2,005 teachers including 726 elementary school teachers and 1,210 secondary school teachers would remain on the job, but only 93 elementary school teachers and 284 secondary school teachers would actually be teaching. The rest would hold administrative jobs.

Some teachers will hail the additional year of employment, but that should not be enough to overturn a decision made three years ago that fresh blood and an ability to adapt to new times was needed. Yes, teacher morale may rise temporarily. But what about those who have already retired, and what about parents who want old teachers out of the classrooms?

The Grand National Party may be smug about dealing a blow to one of President Kim Dae-jung's reforms. But its move is already drawing charges of "politics of power" and "politics of numerical weight" - the same charges they hurled at the president not long ago. Others contend that the move is a shallow political trick to woo some interest groups. A responsible political party should exercise its muscle on forward-looking policies rather than looking back in time to undo what has been done. Should the Grand National Party and minor opposition parties continue to behave this way, they will attract criticism that would otherwise be aimed at the ruling party for mismanaging government affairs.
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