[Letters]Why fear a teacher evaluation system?
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is trying to put a teacher evaluation system in place. Teachers are to be evaluated through surveys of students, parents and colleagues. Opinion about this controversial issue is sharply divided. Those who object argue that a teacher evaluation system is dangerous because it can undermine classroom order and the relationship between teachers and students. They tend to think that this system can degrade teachers’ authority.
Most of those who object to the evaluation are teachers currently working, and the [Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union] strongly supports them in their opposition.
Sometimes, it is very hard to recognize and admit the positive effects of a difficult reform. However, I strongly believe that the evaluation, especially by students, is very helpful to both students and teachers. The teacher evaluation system should be carried out on a national scale as soon as possible.
Learner-centered classroom instruction can be achieved by having a teacher evaluation system. The traditional model of teaching emphasizes teachers’ authority, considering teachers as possessing the professionalism to exercise autonomy [in the classroom] and students are relatively passive recipients of information.
However, educational models have changed; a teacher is no longer dominant in class but a learner among learners, and collaborative professionalism is demanded of teachers now. In class, the participation by the learners is very important. Through evaluation of class instruction and teachers, students can become more active participants because their opinion can change the class.
In Korea, there’s usually no way for students to talk about a class they’re taking. But through a teacher evaluation system, students can express their thoughts and feelings about the class, and these opinions can reform the class. As a result, the quality of the class can be better next time it is offered. If students know that they are playing influential roles, they will be more active and creative learners, not just following teachers’ instruction without thinking.
To take my experience as an example, when I tutored a middle school student, I asked her to write a learning journal in which she can write anything about the class, including her complaints. I was really surprised because there are major gaps between what I was focusing on as a teacher, and what she desired to be taught.
According to a comparative study conducted by David Nunan (1988), learning preferences of teachers and learners have a good few differences in various areas. To resolve this mismatch teachers need to know about what students want to learn. If teachers acquire the information from learners through the teacher evaluation system, they can understand what will be taught, how it will be taught and when it will be taught. Curricula should be negotiated by communication between teachers and students, and the teacher evaluation system can be an active tool used in achieving this.
The teacher evaluation system can motivate teachers to be better in their work. In fact, teachers in public schools in Korea feel comfortable because they did not get the assessment which was influential to their future promotion and did not have to compete with their colleagues. Under a lifelong employment system in which teachers do not have to try harder than their colleagues to be retained, and a seniority system in which they need not produce brilliant achievements for promotion and higher income, the passion which teachers may have had in their first years cannot continue for a long time.
In my opinion, education is also a kind of service or product; teachers are producers and learners are consumers or clients. For developmental change, public education needs to enter the arena of competition to some extent. Teachers’ competitiveness is essential to improving the quality of education.
Some people say that if teachers are evaluated and pitted in rivalry with their colleagues, they cannot be free to apply their own educational philosophy. The education system in Korea excessively emphasizes test scores, so under the teacher evaluation system teachers might stick to pleasing students and improving test scores without proper educational philosophy. But this is a needless fear even before it starts; I am sure that teachers will be more alert to learners’ needs and would create curricula from the learner’s point of view to satisfy them.
The teacher evaluation system should be applied to bring about learner-centered classrooms, and to raise the competitiveness of teachers. This system can result in the improvement of the quality of education and innovative development of Korean education. As a person who aspires to become a teacher, I would like to help teachers now see the positive aspects of the teacher evaluation system.
Lee Han-byul, student, Seoul National University