Improving our schools

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Improving our schools

It appears that the results of last October’s national academic assessment test, taken by elementary, middle and high school students, will bring many changes to schools. City and provincial education authorities have devised measures to improve academic performance levels in their districts.

The publicizing of the results led to competition between different regions and schools. It was a welcome opportunity to revive public education.

However, there are also worries that short-sighted policies designed to give accomplishments visibility could cause negative side effects. To eliminate such concerns, government measures should be refined in a consistent and systemic manner.

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education laid out plans to evaluate principals and vice principals based on the academic progress of their school. It is justifiable to link the results of the national assessment test to personnel decisions in order to encourage schools and officials to make efforts to improve academic performance.

The problem is that if the efforts are viewed as evaluating principals solely based on students’ academic performance, these measures are unlikely to win the support of schools.

To properly evaluate officials responsible for the quality of education at their school, there need to be careful consideration of the use of various evaluation methods and criteria as well as academic performance.

Local education offices came up with a variety of plans to improve performance levels, among them short-sighted policies to raise grades that would not be effective.

Rhetoric such as “making the percentage of underachieving students zero” is laudable, but what is more important are consistent programs and systems to improve academic performance.

The systems should be designed to improve the caliber of struggling students but also all other students. School officials need to be cautious not to sacrifice efforts to develop students’ creativity and diversify education in the name of upgrading academic performance.

Teachers should stand at the center of the shift to bring hope back to schools. No matter how good they are, government policies would be in vain if teachers do not change.

The atmosphere at schools needs to change in a way that encourages teachers to be more passionate about teaching. This is why an evaluation system for teachers should not be delayed.
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