[EDITORIALS]Teachers win, kids loseA new private school bill has passed the National Assembly. Amid fierce protest by lawmakers of the major opposition Grand National Party, the assembly speaker presented the bill at the plenary session for voting and the governing Uri Party passed it in cooperation with the minor opposition Democratic Labor Party and Democratic Party. In the process, governing party lawmakers mobilized their aides and even chauffeurs to physically hinder Grand National Party lawmakers from entering the assembly hall. Of course, there were physical fights and abusive words.
There is a political calculation behind the governing Uri Party’s forced passage of the private school bill. It is partly because President Roh Moo-hyun has just a 20-percent approval rating while the governing party is half as popular as the Grand National Party. Also, the governing party had been criticized by the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union and left-wing civic groups for failing to pass the so-called “reform bills” properly in the assembly. The governing party seems to have concluded that they should please traditional supporters because those who oppose the new private school bill are unlikely to support the party anyway. The party must have considered that the new private school bill issue was being treated as a symbol of ideological conflict between conservatives and progressives. We regret that the governing Uri Party has applied political interests and ideology to an educational issue tied to the nation’s future.
It is schools that will be directly battered by the forced passing of the new private school bill. The bill requires private schools to fill at least a quarter of directorial board members with outside figures recommended by the school operations committees. The committees have to recommend twice as many persons as the empty board seats, so that the foundation of the private schools can make a selection. But this has little meaning because the foundations should select persons from a recommended list. The influence of the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union will strengthen greatly.
Meanwhile, a third of the members of the school operation committees are teachers. Another third are parents and the others are prominent citizens of the region. The key thing is that teachers will intervene in the management of schools. The unionized teachers are already misleading students with ideological education. Now they will practically intervene in the management of schools through the school operation committees. The Education Ministry and school principals have long been influenced by unionized teachers. Now the new private school bill has given them strong authority to directly and indirectly intervene in the management of the schools. The negative effects will be great.
The Korean Association of Private School Foundations had already said that their members will refuse to take new students next year and will close their schools if the bill is approved by the National Assembly. The victims of such moves would clearly be the students. Amid the duals between the Association of Private School Foundations and the unionized teachers and between private schools and the government, education will be lost and confusion in society will become serious.