[FOUNTAIN]Education war becomes heatedDisputes over whether female teachers should prepare tea for school principals continue today. Decades ago female teachers protested such requests by using their charm. But things are different now that the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union is in operation. The suicide of the superintendent of an elementary school last month brought to a head the dispute over serving tea. The dispute has evolved into a much bigger struggle between the union and the association of superintendents, which includes other controversial subjects, such as the introduction of a computerized database of teacher and student educational information.
The union threatened to take a vote on whether to hold a demonstration, which could paralyze education. The superintendents intended to go ahead with their planned outdoor rally at Seoul’s City Hall plaza.
Park Nam-ki, an education professor said, “The dispute over school education currently taking place in Korea is not just a dispute but a war.” According to Mr. Park, the “educational war” is the shadow of a war in larger society. Thus, he said, trying to solve problems related to education with reform of the educational system is as useless as using cleaner to remove a shadow.
The current educational war is unfair in that parents are excluded from the process. A female teacher was surprised when she saw a letter from her son’s high school. The letter referred to why the National Education Information System should not be established and asked her to sign a petition against it. It even said, wrongly, that the system will computerize such information as students’ punishment record, housing information and whether students have both parents or not. The government had already removed such information from the system. If the school sent the letter without knowing this fact, we may doubt the qualifications of teachers there. If it intentionally sent the letter even knowing such facts, it would be a serious breach of trust.
Regardless of whether it is the association of superintendents or the union, they all will suffer together if they continue their war, victimizing students and parents. In the next school year, it may be the case that parents will ask schools to notify them as to which teacher belongs to which organization and choose teachers of their children according to that information.
by Noh Jae-hyun
The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.