Teachers abdicate their dutyA poll by the state-run Korea Educational Development Institute underscored the harsh reality of our high school system: Students get more out of private educational institutions than from public schools. In the survey, high school students said lecturers at after-hours cram schools provide better help, guidance and assistance in all academic fields than their counterparts in the public system.
In general, cram schools have faculty members who go out of their way to help as many students get into college as possible. They are paid to focus intensely on their students and guide them according to a college entrance map. So the fact that they rank highly in terms of academic quality isn’t necessarily surprising.
These lecturers, however, also excel in other, unexpected areas. They received more points than their public school peers on guiding adolescent pupils, according to the study. They also ranked higher in the areas of “student understanding,” “fairness in the classroom” and “support in character-building.” Schoolteachers have virtually relinquished their jobs to lecturers at private cram institutions.
It is no wonder that public education is in jeopardy. To save it before it completely falls off a cliff, teachers at public schools must reinvent themselves and shake off their complacency.
The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, hoping to provide a wake-up call, shuffled 17 teachers deemed incompetent in March, and the gap in performance-based bonuses between those at the top end and those at the bottom will be drastically widened starting this year to inspire better performance among teachers.
But these measures fall short of encouraging a complete makeover. Educational authorities must make their best use of the across-the-board teacher assessments that start next month. Teachers rated incompetent through evaluations should undergo tailored training programs to hone their teaching abilities. If that doesn’t work, the teachers should walk away from classrooms on their own feet.
The quality and success of education completely lies with teachers. And faculty in the university realm should be no exception.
Some universities have already begun to end lifetime job guarantees to professors. Starting this year, Pohang University of Science and Technology has introduced a stringent evaluation system under which professors failing in tenure evaluations will have to leave the school after a year without re-examination. Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology last year dropped six professors, while Seoul National University crossed off 10 from its 10-year tenure guarantee.
Performance-based evaluations serve as a valuable way to create a healthy and strong teaching community.