[Viewpoint] Flexibility needed in schools

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[Viewpoint] Flexibility needed in schools

The government needs to prepare new policies for teachers in order to cut private education costs by reinforcing public education. When teachers have a passion for teaching their students and enjoy high job satisfaction, their involvement will lead to greater outcomes.

If teachers have no enthusiasm for their job, we are not likely to see the passion we need in our classrooms.

Working conditions for teachers have improved a considerable amount in recent years. Wages are up and the number of students per class is down, and each teacher now teaches less. Most teachers consider the job their calling and do their best to educate their flocks. Teachers’ colleges are very selective, and the competition to get in is very intense.

Therefore, Korean teachers must be some of the most capable in the world.

Nevertheless, Korean teachers are the least satisfied with their jobs among the 23 countries polled in the Teaching and Learning International Survey conducted by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Recently, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology announced a future-oriented educational program. In order to implement the future-oriented curriculum and enhance the competitiveness of teaching jobs, a new policy on teachers should be promoted to elevate professional development and job satisfaction.

The following are some of the tasks that require improvement.

First, teachers should be posted flexibly and those with more qualifications should be given priority while implementing the future-oriented educational program prepared by the Educational Program Special Committee under the Education, Science and Technology Advisory Commission.

Exchanges among teachers should be more effective, and the teachers’ certification system needs to be revised to encourage and stimulate professional development.

Second, teachers’ colleges need to be reorganized and restructured. The number of graduates from these institutes is four to five times more than needed.

This is a national waste and a personal tragedy. These colleges have to change their admissions systems and requirements as well. In this painful process, they have to transcend group egoism and the interests of the universities or teachers’ groups.

Third, we need to see a more systematic and sophisticated professional development program put in place and promoted. Teachers should be able to choose from custom-made training programs based on their professional goals. Outstanding teachers should be given the chance to undertake comprehensive training and participate in sessions on improving leadership skills.

Also, teachers suffering from stress-related problems should be given the chance to take more training to sort their problems out or asked to quit the profession.

Fourth, a new compensation system needs to be established to make sure teachers can focus on their jobs and their students with the appropriate level of morale and enthusiasm. The existing wage grade system needs to be replaced with one that reflects academic background and training. More incentives and research sabbaticals for outstanding teachers should be considered, too.

Last, school education is largely swayed by principals, and therefore, the authorities need to make every effort to recruit and keep capable school administrators. In addition to diversifying the ways in which school heads are recruited, it would help if we had a compensation scheme based on an evaluation of the school heads.

It’s clear that the teacher, school and organization-oriented teachers’ policy should shift its focus to the students, the main recipients of education. A new policy that makes teachers more motivated to teach will turn the rigid atmosphere we often find in our classrooms into a more liberal and flexible one.

Only then are we likely to see our teachers and students become more competitive.

*The writer is a professor of education at Hongik University.

by Suh Chung-wha

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