[INSIGHT]Education Problems, a Step at a Time

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[INSIGHT]Education Problems, a Step at a Time

There have been reports that a group of educators have begun what they call a "nice teachers' movement." They are campaigning to revive visits to students' homes by teachers that were popular 30 or 40 years ago. The movement aims, they say, to restore dialogue between teachers and students and rebuild confidence between schools and parents.

I have fond memories of home visit from my teacher long ago, because the visit transformed my teacher in my eyes from a distant authority figure into a warm-hearted mentor. But home visits by teachers were banned by the government when the dubious practice by parents of giving presents to teachers during their visits became a social issue.

Nowadays, the ills of the education system in Korea creep into every conversation. Complaints come from every sector of society, from rich and poor, experts and laymen. Specialists have prescribed all manner of fixes for the broken system, from preschool to university level, but none have been implemented. The problem is a serious one.

These many prescriptions were useless because it is impossible to satisfy the contradictory demands of all those involved. While devoted parents emphasize the quality of their children's education, society emphasizes scholastic ability and does not tolerate different abilities and strengths, while professing to believe that students are entitled to equality of educational opportunity and access. As the government flounders, the parents and students' dependence on private educational institutions increases and widens, resulting in despair among teachers and the government.

But this swamp of despair may be the starting point of hope. Trust is the key to finding the hope needed to rebuild our education system. Parent's trust in school system is a precondition for the smooth functioning and cooperation among education policymakers, teachers, parents and students. But mutual mistrust prevails in Korean schools and households. Wise measures are needed to convert this mutual distrust into faith.

The paradigm endorsed by modern society is shifting towards putting greater value on listening to the wishes and demands of educational "consumers" - students and parents - instead of imposing policy top-down. But public education authorities still have not learned that in order to find a happy balance of demands, opinions must be heard. The schools should shed their authoritative attitude and narrow the gulf that exists between schools on the one hand and parents and students on the other.

How can this conceptual change be implemented in practice? One good place to start may be the ritual school ceremony. School sports ceremonies and school visits by parents, which usually take place on weekdays, should take place on Sundays and teachers be given the following Monday off. If school visits are made on Sundays, fathers who want to be involved in their children's school life, but are not able to visit due to work demands, would have the opportunity. Working mothers could be relieved of the guilt of having to be at work instead of celebrating their children's achievements. With the active participation of parents in school ceremonies, the schools could share the burden of the responsibility for ensuring that students complete their obligatory course of education satisfactorily.

Nothing is more foolish than thinking we can wish away all the problems of the education system - which have accumulated over half a century - in a blink of an eye. "More haste, less speed" - even in urgent situations, corrective measures should be implemented step by step. Just as a small trickle can bring down the dam, trust will take root as small expressions of gratitude between educators, policymakers and consumers accumulate.

Korea may find itself on the right track toward solving its problem-riddled education system if it tackles the issues one by one.
There have been reports that a group of educators have begun what they call a "nice teachers' movement." They are campaigning to revive visits to students' homes by teachers that were popular 30 or 40 years ago. The movement aims, they say, to restore dialogue between teachers and students and rebuild confidence between schools and parents.

I have fond memories of home visit from my teacher long ago, because the visit transformed my teacher in my eyes from a distant authority figure into a warm-hearted mentor. But home visits by teachers were banned by the government when the dubious practice by parents of giving presents to teachers during their visits became a social issue.

Nowadays, the ills of the education system in Korea creep into every conversation. Complaints come from every sector of society, from rich and poor, experts and laymen. Specialists have prescribed all manner of fixes for the broken system, from preschool to university level, but none have been implemented. The problem is a serious one.

These many prescriptions were useless because it is impossible to satisfy the contradictory demands of all those involved. While devoted parents emphasize the quality of their children's education, society emphasizes scholastic ability and does not tolerate different abilities and strengths, while professing to believe that students are entitled to equality of educational opportunity and access. As the government flounders, the parents and students' dependence on private educational institutions increases and widens, resulting in despair among teachers and the government.

But this swamp of despair may be the starting point of hope. Trust is the key to finding the hope needed to rebuild our education system. Parent's trust in school system is a precondition for the smooth functioning and cooperation among education policymakers, teachers, parents and students. But mutual mistrust prevails in Korean schools and households. Wise measures are needed to convert this mutual distrust into faith.

The paradigm endorsed by modern society is shifting towards putting greater value on listening to the wishes and demands of educational "consumers" - students and parents - instead of imposing policy top-down. But public education authorities still have not learned that in order to find a happy balance of demands, opinions must be heard. The schools should shed their authoritative attitude and narrow the gulf that exists between schools on the one hand and parents and students on the other.

How can this conceptual change be implemented in practice? One good place to start may be the ritual school ceremony. School sports ceremonies and school visits by parents, which usually take place on weekdays, should take place on Sundays and teachers be given the following Monday off. If school visits are made on Sundays, fathers who want to be involved in their children's school life, but are not able to visit due to work demands, would have the opportunity. Working mothers could be relieved of the guilt of having to be at work instead of celebrating their children's achievements. With the active participation of parents in school ceremonies, the schools could share the burden of the responsibility for ensuring that students complete their obligatory course of education satisfactorily.

Nothing is more foolish than thinking we can wish away all the problems of the education system - which have accumulated over half a century - in a blink of an eye. "More haste, less speed" - even in urgent situations, corrective measures should be implemented step by step. Just as a small trickle can bring down the dam, trust will take root as small expressions of gratitude between educators, policymakers and consumers accumulate.

Korea may find itself on the right track toward solving its problem-riddled education system if it tackles the issues one by one.
There have been reports that a group of educators have begun what they call a "nice teachers' movement." They are campaigning to revive visits to students' homes by teachers that were popular 30 or 40 years ago. The movement aims, they say, to restore dialogue between teachers and students and rebuild confidence between schools and parents.

I have fond memories of home visit from my teacher long ago, because the visit transformed my teacher in my eyes from a distant authority figure into a warm-hearted mentor. But home visits by teachers were banned by the government when the dubious practice by parents of giving presents to teachers during their visits became a social issue.

Nowadays, the ills of the education system in Korea creep into every conversation. Complaints come from every sector of society, from rich and poor, experts and laymen. Specialists have prescribed all manner of fixes for the broken system, from preschool to university level, but none have been implemented. The problem is a serious one.

These many prescriptions were useless because it is impossible to satisfy the contradictory demands of all those involved. While devoted parents emphasize the quality of their children's education, society emphasizes scholastic ability and does not tolerate different abilities and strengths, while professing to believe that students are entitled to equality of educational opportunity and access. As the government flounders, the parents and students' dependence on private educational institutions increases and widens, resulting in despair among teachers and the government.

But this swamp of despair may be the starting point of hope. Trust is the key to finding the hope needed to rebuild our education system. Parent's trust in school system is a precondition for the smooth functioning and cooperation among education policymakers, teachers, parents and students. But mutual mistrust prevails in Korean schools and households. Wise measures are needed to convert this mutual distrust into faith.

The paradigm endorsed by modern society is shifting towards putting greater value on listening to the wishes and demands of educational "consumers" - students and parents - instead of imposing policy top-down. But public education authorities still have not learned that in order to find a happy balance of demands, opinions must be heard. The schools should shed their authoritative attitude and narrow the gulf that exists between schools on the one hand and parents and students on the other.

How can this conceptual change be implemented in practice? One good place to start may be the ritual school ceremony. School sports ceremonies and school visits by parents, which usually take place on weekdays, should take place on Sundays and teachers be given the following Monday off. If school visits are made on Sundays, fathers who want to be involved in their children's school life, but are not able to visit due to work demands, would have the opportunity. Working mothers could be relieved of the guilt of having to be at work instead of celebrating their children's achievements. With the active participation of parents in school ceremonies, the schools could share the burden of the responsibility for ensuring that students complete their obligatory course of education satisfactorily.

Nothing is more foolish than thinking we can wish away all the problems of the education system - which have accumulated over half a century - in a blink of an eye. "More haste, less speed" - even in urgent situations, corrective measures should be implemented step by step. Just as a small trickle can bring down the dam, trust will take root as small expressions of gratitude between educators, policymakers and consumers accumulate.

Korea may find itself on the right track toward solving its problem-riddled education system if it tackles the issues one by one.


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The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


by Hong Eun-hee

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