Saving public schoolsDuksung Girls’ Middle School in Seoul has succeeded in making even the school’s top student feel she no longer needs private after-school lessons, giving hope for our nation’s beleaguered public schools.
Led by headmistress Kim Young-suk, Duksung Girls’ has proved that schools can win in the war against private instruction. At the school, all students remain after regular classes are over and go to different supplementary classes depending on their school performance. Many parents were unsure if it would be enough to leave education only to the school. But as students’ performance improved, parents’ anxiety has turned into gratitude.
Kim, who worked earlier as a teacher at Duksung Girls’ High School, led after-school classes for seven years there as well. She persuaded other teachers and held extra classes until 10 p.m. to offer different lessons to students. As a result, middle school students wanted to go to Duksung Girls’ High School, which was once not popular among students. Kim’s passion and devotion to take full responsibility for students’ education has changed the school’s results and reputation.
Kim’s experiments make us realize once again that restoring public education depends on teachers. In order to fight against private institutes, teachers’ efforts to provide quality education are absolutely necessary. Teachers must work hard to improve their professional knowledge and competence. Gangnam District’s education office runs a program offering extra lectures in schools; teachers who participate in the program work even during vacation breaks.
However, we can not rely solely on individual teachers’ passion. The right climate must be created so that teachers can dedicate themselves to education. Most of all, systemized support must be provided to teachers who voluntarily work to improve themselves. This year, Seoul City supplied 1.5 billion won ($1.06 million) to teachers in 200 schools to do research on how students can voluntarily and effectively study on their own. Last year, Busan’s education office selected 501 teachers’ study groups and provided them with 1.1 billion won and this year decided to increase support. Teachers’ efforts must be rewarded. If incentives are given to them, such as pay for extra classes, teachers will naturally feel more responsible.
Of course, extra classes are not the most important issue in public school education. Ultimately, teachers’ competence must be enhanced to improve the quality of regular classes. That’s the ideal for public education.