Disadvantages emerge as teachers choose schoolsHan Gyeong-yeon, principal of Eunpyeong High School, let out a sigh on Feb. 12 as she looked at the teachers’ list for the 2010 school year.
Starting this semester, elementary, middle and high schools have adopted the “teacher invitation” system, which allows principals to hire up to 20 percent of the school’s teachers upon their own evaluations.
The policy was created to liberalize the nation’s school system and give schools some freedom to select their own faculty. However, many schools outside popular school districts are complaining that qualified teachers are applying to schools in the more widely-favored areas, especially districts south of the Han River.
“Teachers don’t want to teach at schools in the outskirts, so this ‘teacher invitation’ system is quite useless,” Han said.
At Eunpyeong, in northern Seoul, not one teacher was hired through the new system this semester. On the other hand, Gangnam’s Seoul High School, considered to have one of the best environments to work, hired 19 teachers, or 19.6 percent of its total, through the invitation system. The school received a flood of applications, including six applications for one “invitation” spot for a physics teacher.
“I think it worked to the school’s advantage in that public transportation is easily accessible to and from here and that the school has a good reputation,” said a school official.
According to data collected by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education and the JoongAng Ilbo, out of 173 teachers selected for Seoul schools through the “teacher invitation” system, 74 teachers, or 43 percent, were employed by three districts south of the river considered the top school districts in the country: the Gangnam, Seocho and Songpa districts.
Seoul High School recruited the most teachers, with 19, through this system, followed by Bangsan High School in Songpa District, with 10 teachers hired by invitation this year.
Meanwhile, other districts, including Gangbuk and Seongdong in northern Seoul and Gwanak in southern Seoul, had only one or two teachers hired through the system. Sungdong High School in northern Seoul had no teacher applicants at all.
Among teachers, the tendency to apply to the Gangnam schools is said to be natural, as getting a position in one of these schools is better for resume-building - and other things.
“In reality, I chose an ‘A-level’ school because the employment environment is better,” said Park, who got hired at a school in Songpa District through the new system from his old post at a school in Jungnang District, northeastern Seoul.
Some teachers who are already working in popular schools are said to be taking advantage of this new system in order to prolong their stay.
“A select number of teachers are using the invitation system to stay at a school in the Gangnam area,” said a principal at a high school in Yangcheon District, western Seoul.
Due to this imbalance, the Seoul Education Office said it is planning to restrict some 13 schools in popular school districts from implementing the teacher invitation system in the future.
By Kim Min-sang, Cho Jae-eun [firstname.lastname@example.org]