[LETTERS to the editor]Shortsighted freeze
The government has decided to freeze the number of teachers next year. It is reasonable to see the education community also shares in the difficulties that the national economy now faces.
However, it is a common principle across all ages and countries that education should be implemented as a farsighted policy.
It may fairly be said that the quality of teachers determines the quality of education. However, working conditions for teachers in Korea are unfavorable for them to display their abilities. Class hours assigned to them per week average 26.4 hours for elementary school teachers, 19 hours for middle school teachers and 17.4 hours for high school teachers, all higher than the average [for their counterparts in member countries] of the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation.
The number of students per teacher is also high: 26.7 students for elementary school teachers, 20.8 students for middle school teachers and 15.9 students for high school teachers. Given the situation, it is difficult for a teacher to have one-on-one talks with students to guide them better.
The public education sector is often criticized as being unreliable. However, the high ratio of students per teacher indicates how poor working conditions are faced by Korean teachers. It seems to me a contradiction to argue about the quality of education while teachers work under unfavorable circumstances.
If the government insists on the measure of freezing the number of teachers, it will adversely affect students in the end. It is this writer’s opinion that if the government regards the education of youth as important, it should be consistent with its initial policy of keeping the balance of demand and supply of teachers with a long term perspective despite some financial burden.
Furthermore, raising the quality of public education is the right answer to problems involving private education.
I hope that the government and officials in charge of the education sector will come up with more concrete measures to strengthen public education in our country.
Woo Jeong-ryul, teacher,
Hyekwang High School, Busan
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