Teachers Should Have to CompeteIn a recent workshop about educational policy, Minister of Education Lee Don-hee spoke of the need to get rid of "incompetent" teachers, sparking a harsh reaction by educators'' organizations. Mr. Lee said that teachers with tenure feel safely ensconced in their jobs and no longer work hard on research and teaching activities, adding, "We have to try to find a system whereby we can get incompetent teachers to leave."
The Korea Teachers'' and Educational Workers'' Union, together with other groups, responded, "To blame the structural and organizational problems of our school system on individual instructors is to belittle the position and role of the teacher."
With the lowering of the retirement age, teachers'' careers have been shortened, and today they even feel insecure about their social status. Under the circumstances, their sensitivity and sharp reaction to Mr. Lee''s statements are readily understandable. Nevertheless, we do believe it is high time that teachers began to think about just how competitive their qualifications are. The need to introduce some sort of system whereby teachers have to compete for positions was brought up a long time ago. In its 1993 General Five-Year Plan for Education, the government said it would introduce a system of evaluating teachers, forcing those judged incompetent to retire and rewarding outstanding teachers with better pay.
But running up against organized opposition by teachers'' groups, the government quietly dropped such plans from its General Measures for the Development of the Teaching Profession, proposed last February.
The competitiveness of a nation or an organization is directly related to the competitiveness of its educational system. In the United States, where teachers work under contract, they are re-evaluated every year or even every semester. This evaluation is used to determine whether they qualify for a contract renewal and to adjust their salaries and benefits. If they do not do any research or are careless and lazy about their teaching activities, they are out.
The introduction of a competitive system for teachers is inevitable. The quality of our graduates is only as good as the quality of our teachers. Instead of reacting with anger at the ministers comments about incompetent teachers, the teachers'' organizations should take the initiative in working with the government to create a workable competition system.
by Kim Dong-sung