&#91SCRIVENER&#93What? Teachers who can teach?

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&#91SCRIVENER&#93What? Teachers who can teach?

Next month, the government is going to start talking with other governments about opening up the education sector to foreign investment.
These talks could get heated because, fresh from their victory in Iraq, the United States, Britain and Australia intend to invade elementary, middle and high schools in Korea.
This, we should state from the outset, is not a good thing.
If Korea is not vigilant in blocking foreign education, soon the young people are going to start becoming more creative and independent-minded.
Children who know they won’t have so much homework under foreign teachers will welcome the invaders in bad English and ask them for chocolate.
Free time will lead to dangerous thoughts. If left unchecked, young Koreans will start choosing colleges for the quality of education offered rather than the reputation. Universities might become places of learning rather than exclusive old boys clubs. A new generation of historians may start examining dangerous subjects, such as the history of slavery in Korea, the role of Koreans in the Japanese prison camp system during World War II, the ineffectiveness of the independence movement, massacres by our side during the Korean War, and so on.
We shudder to think where this may lead us.
Before we criticize the government, though, it is important to recognize that Korea is not voluntarily allowing such SARS-like evil to enter the country.
The government doesn’t really have a choice because opening the education market is part of the country’s commitment as a member of the World Trade Organization. If Korea were not such a poor, helpless educational shrimp being crushed between the whales of advanced nations who control us by threatening to remove their troops from the center of Seoul, this wouldn’t be happening.
But it is. So what can we do?
The government should make sure that it only opens the door a wee bit, just enough to keep the invaders happy.
But more important than this, it is vital that, as it expresses this intent, the government convey to the people the undesirability of foreigners involved in our education. The truth is that we risk being undermined from within. If the people start to think that foreign schools are a good idea, the nation might collapse.
This issue is in fact barking outside the nation’s gates. For example, many parents are sending their children to study, even at middle school level, overseas. The US, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada are favored destinations.
But, incredibly, so is China, which if you ask me, is a bit of an insult.
Some say that allowing foreign schools to come here would stem the flow of school fees overseas. But such people belong in the axis of people who have evil ideas about education.
Fortunately, most of Korea’s 400,000 or so teachers oppose any opening. They probably have more to lose than anyone. For example, how could we find jobs for all those English teachers who can’t speak English properly?
If you want a good example of the kind of sucking up to children that would come with foreign education, all you’ve got to do is look on the BBC web site. There’s a section for children about the Iraq war in which it simply states that the cause of the war was Iraq’s failure to disarm and allow for open international inspection and destruction of its weapons of mass destruction. What this does is allow for open discussion as to whether 12 years was enough time for Baghdad to comply, and whether invasion was morally justified.
You can’t underestimate the effect of this type of approach on the young Korean mind. By being invited to think as opposed to bashed over the head with the teacher’s own ideas, which is what children prefer, you risk destroying their young minds.
For all these reasons, Yoon Deok-hong, the education minister, was right to suck his teeth when he told the National Assembly last month that any opening “should be limited to the current level of adult education and other tertiary training.”
Wink, wink. We get this message. Let ‘em teach remedial stuff. The Harvard School for Advanced Welding is most welcome.

* The writer is managing director of Merit/Burson-Marsteller and author of “The Koreans.”

by Michael Breen
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