Officials we must trustAn education superintendent is a highly influential position. A person who holds that office has to decide important matters, such as establishing new elite schools, adjusting school districts, opening classes in accordance with students’ performances and handling personnel issues.
Needless to say, there has to be a firm level of trust between superintendents, students, parents and teachers, but judging by their actions, some superintendents seem oblivious to this need.
Kong Jung-tack, the superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, reportedly borrowed 700 million won ($540,000) from the owners of private education institutes when he was running for the post.
If true, this was an inappropriate act since an education superintendent is supposed to monitor and supervise private institutes, not ask them to lend him money.
How can Kong respond if people say he only emphasizes autonomy and competition in order to promote private education because he wants to show his gratitude to owners of private institutes?
His alleged actions make him less easy to trust, which is why we think is doubtful that Kong will push forward the public education system in the right direction, especially when he is called the godfather of private education institutes.
We were relieved that Jou Kyong-bok, another candidate for the Seoul education superintendent’s position, was not elected. As he was sponsored and supported by the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union, we thought he would be influenced too much by the teachers’ union if he got elected. Instead, we hoped that Kong would be the one to oversee education in Seoul.
But Kong has disappointed us, and he is not the only one. Last week, the education superintendent of North Gyeongsang was charged with having accepted bribes in return for providing subsidies to a private school for the construction of dormitories. Another superintendent in South Chungcheong was questioned about receiving bribes.
Kong must apologize if he has acted inappropriately and promise that he will be more professional. He must not give the impression that he favors private education institutes. In addition, the council of education superintendents must apologize and promise to carry out a fair education policy.
If we can’t trust education superintendents, our public education system is left without a leg to stand on.