Quest for qualityThough Kong Jung-tack was reelected as the superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, he managed to win only 19,000 votes more than his rival Jou Kyong-bok.
Jou, who was strongly backed by the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union, a liberal teachers’ group, garnered more votes in 17 districts out of 25 districts in Seoul than Kong.
The distribution of votes clearly demonstrates the division between affluent Gangnam and the rest of Seoul.
Though we have to take into consideration that only 15.4 percent of the electorate votes, the fact that issues other than education played a role in the election ? like candlelight vigils over the resumption of American beef imports and partisan conflicts ? means that the public’s attitude toward education in Seoul is clearly divided.
In an interview after the election, Kong said, “I will promote competition between students and forcefully implement policies allowing students to select schools and supplementing the current education system.”
Of course, implementing more competition like this is inevitable. Egalitarian education cannot improve our education system. In any case, the results of the election show that the introduction of such competition cannot satisfy the educational needs of the general public.
Stressing competition and elite education are both likely to perpetuate private instruction, bring bigger advantages to the rich and make it difficult for students to realize their individuality and potential.
Elite primary, middle and high school students are likely to be influenced by the home environment rather than their own ability.
This approach could create inequality in education.
Education should equip students to rise from the lower to the higher class, but unilateral competition is unlikely to encourage this situation.
We need alternative measures to tackle these problems. Most of all, quality public education needs to be provided. Students should be allowed to compete based on school education rather than after-school education.
There needs to be a way for public education to survive by expanding investment in public education and in a system to evaluate teachers.