[Viewpoint] Unborn teacher evaluations

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[Viewpoint] Unborn teacher evaluations

I once met a very skilled anatomy professor. He said he had dissected more than 400 corpses in the past 20 years. I wondered what kinds of expressions people had on their faces when they died, so I asked the professor, and he said, “All 400 faces I saw had relaxed expressions on their faces.”

This is because the face has “expression” muscles, but when the nerves stop working, people can no longer make expressions. In other words, everyone has the same expression, whether they die of natural causes, or by accident. The professor added, “Dead people do not scare me. The people that do scare me are those who are alive and have infinite facial expressions.” He said this can be applied to systems, too.

People generally consider “active laws,” especially laws that evaluate individual people, to be scary. The expressions on people’s faces naturally change because it is a matter of survival.

I bring up the story of the anatomy professor because I am distressed by the private education solution. The ruling party, the government and the Blue House all made a fuss about “killing private education,” as if they were doing it for all students and parents. As I have said before many times, private education is not an alternative to public education. It should be considered a support system. What use is it to shout out, “Double the efficacy of schools, reduce private education cost by half?” Students come back from school already full, then run to hagwon to overeat. It is as if they come back from eating all day and are made to go to another restaurant to eat more. Something is seriously wrong, whether it is the selection on the menu, the ingredients in the food or the service.

There was something said about a “war,” but the point has been missed once again. The government failed to think hard about its priorities. The top priority is the teacher evaluation system.

The government first discussed introducing a teacher evaluation system in 2000. The “Teacher’s Comprehensive Development Plan” was the issue of the year. In 2004, the “Teacher Evaluation Plan of Pursuit” was presented and it seemed as if it would be enforced right away. The bill was submitted to the National Assembly two years later. The aim was to stimulate teachers with evaluations by fellow teachers, students and parents. However, assemblymen did not want to displease the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union. Both ruling and opposition party assemblymen were cautious because of the empty threat that teachers would make sure they failed in upcoming elections if they agreed with teacher evaluations. The bill was automatically dissolved after the 17th National Assembly in May 2008.

A flood of criticisms followed. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology did not take responsibility and blamed the National Assembly instead. Then, last year, three assemblymen motioned for the bill. The Democratic Party opposed considering evaluation results when calculating performance ratings. It was all rough and tumble. In the end, all agreed on a “half bill” that does not consider evaluation results when calculating performance ratings, but it is still a pending matter. It should have passed the National Assembly already if it is to start in March 2010, but it has not even been discussed. What strange assemblymen. The ruling party, government and the Blue House only discussed introduction of a teacher evaluation system in theory. President Lee Myung-bak has never expressed any strong motivation for the issue, either.

On the other hand, U.S. President Barack Obama revealed that he would close down 5,000 public schools with bad academic performance for the past five years. The British government also clarified it would retire unskilled teachers every five years. It is a pain for teachers, but parents of students are applauding. Let us go back to basics, too. The start has to be teacher evaluations. First, help the evaluation system, which has remained unborn the past 10 years despite the government’s labor. Are the expressions on teachers’ faces relaxed because there is no “active law” toward evaluation reform? The government and National Assembly are fully responsible.

*The writer is the education news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yang Young-yu
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