[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]Schools’ many problems

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[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]Schools’ many problems

This is in response to Lee Ha-kyung’s column, “A chance to renew the schools” (June 24). Weed out the bad and implement the good ― this is the solution offered to improve the education system? A fine editorial piece, except there is no definition of bad and good. I wish to know the definitions. Is a teacher who beats children, but with the result of very high grades, a good teacher or a bad one? What about a teacher who is well-liked, popular with students, drinks with parents and superiors and always gives his students good grades? Is a good teacher in Korea one who does not rock the boat?
I wish “fixing” the education problem in Korea was as easy as implementing a teacher evaluation system. Although teacher evaluation is a good thing, this is an extreme over-simplification of a systemic problem. Far-reaching social and cultural influences need to be considered. I have met many good teachers in the public school system. They are very frustrated by school policies, cronyism, and an inept system.
School boards have accepted textbooks based on favors from publishing companies. Promotions typically result from political alliances. Parents still offer money and gifts to teachers for better scores and more attention to their children. Schools receive funding based on test results; the more “good” scores, the more funding is received, so doctoring scores ensures income. Policies at all levels that prohibit failing students tie good teachers’ hands.
I believe one of the reasons teachers’ unions object to the evaluation plan is that it will inevitably result in a popularity contest. If you pass all students with good marks, parents and school boards will rate you very highlt. A good teacher who pushes students to do their best, fails sub-standard students and finds alternative teaching methods will receive poor marks.
I believe parents are sending their children overseas because they want them to think independently. I recall a picture in a magazine that illustrates this point. There is a big black box labeled “Education.” Korean students lined up to enter the box are all shapes and sizes, with differing clothing and hairstyles; the ones filing out are all the same height, with the same clothes and hairstyles. They go into the box as individuals and come out as clones. They are shaped by the system. This is what I believe parents are trying to free their children from.


by David Woelke
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