[Viewpoint]A passion for teachingTeachers are feeling confused these days because of school liberalization measures proposed one after another by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and municipal and provincial education offices.
No teacher would say no to giving autonomy to schools. However, they certainly do not feel comfortable with the measures that allow instructors at private academies to give lessons at schools after school hours.
This must make teachers feel that their territory is being invaded by the private education sector.
We can, however, look at it from a different point of view.
We should take this as an opportunity to enhance the competitiveness of school teachers so that public education can beat private education.
In order to do this, it is necessary for teachers to start by reflecting on whether they have lived up to the expectations for and the ideals of a good teacher.
There are many models of good teachers.
During the chaos that followed Korea’s liberation from Japan, the late Chung Jin-seok, who was a principal of Baeksan Middle and High School in North Jeolla Province, collected rice donations from people in the community, persuading them that children should be given an education.
He bought a warehouse with the money he raised and opened a school there.
He lived his whole life with the belief that teaching was his duty in life.
Before he passed away three years ago, he told people around him, including this writer, “If I am born again, I will become a teacher again.”
Chun Seong-eun is a veteran mathematics teacher at Myongji Foreign Language High School in Gyeonggi Province.
He had once left school to teach at a private educational institute.
And for about two years he was one of the most popular math teachers in all private educational institutes. But he decided to return to public school teaching three years ago.
As a star math teacher he earned hundreds of millions of won a year, but he turned his back on the money with no regrets.
He returned to the public school system because he thought that there was no place else for him to be.
I think this is what a teacher should feel about teaching: It is something that one would want to do again given a second life, and something that one cannot give up even if it means walking away from hundreds of millions of won.
If teachers really feel that way about teaching, there is no reason for them to feel threatened by the thought of giving space for private instruction.
They should not be discouraged by the criticism of some people that teachers are the main reason for weak public education.
Teachers are the ones who will change school education so that it can stand up confidently against the private instruction industry.
We desperately need teachers who think and study hard to improve their teaching.
That the number of such teachers is showing signs of increasing around the nation gives us hope for Korean education.
Chang Dong-ho of Yonghwa Girls’ High School in Seoul is another good example.
Last year, Chang got together with nine teachers from different schools to form the “Combined Essay Dream Team.” They met often and worked together to develop an essaywriting program.
Their goal was to prove that public school education can beat the essay-writing instruction provided at private educational institutes.
This year, they started to teach essay writing classes after school at several public schools, and they say reception from students is great.
In Busan, teachers actively participate in various voluntary study groups.
The idea is to raise teachers’ expertise in various fields to enhance the quality of classroom teaching.
Thousands of teachers are studying to improve their teaching methods.
There are curriculum study groups that think about how to improve teaching methods for many subjects; 71 essay method study groups; 170 reading and discussion study groups and 182 English teaching study groups.
Now, teachers are competing among themselves to teach better.
This is the only way to revive schools and raise the competitiveness of public education.
The first test is preparation for education expansion according to student ability levels, as part of measures to liberalize schools.
Teachers should make good educational programs for each level, according to each school’s circumstances.
The main domain of school education is regular classes.
It is only logical that if teachers raise the quality of regular classes to satisfy the needs of students, the need for additional classes after school will decrease.
If additional instruction is needed after school, teachers can take care of this too.
Teachers should be proud of their love of teaching.
No matter what others may say, students should be able to believe in their teachers.
This is the reason why the future of Korea is carried on the shoulders of our teachers.
However, if teaching is nothing more than a means of earning a living, teachers must feel a sense of shame when they look back on their initial intentions when they entered an education college at university.
Schools’ reason for being are their students and their teachers. As such they are the masters.
When teachers are passionate about their work and ideals, schools will change and education will change, too.
This is the reason why I hope schools overflow with teachers like Chung Jin-suk and Chun Sung-eun.
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Nam-joong
More in Columns
A cautionary tale
A government in disarray
China’s thin skin
The Korean War from China’s view
Who’s laughing now?