Education’s balancing act

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Education’s balancing act

With the election of liberal school superintendents around the country, the future of elementary and secondary education is shrouded in uncertainty. There are growing signs that our schools and education policy may strongly be affected by the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union, a progressive teachers group that gave its full support to liberal candidates in the local elections. A typical example of the actions they have initiated is the signature-gathering campaign they launched to protest the teacher evaluation system, which went into effect this month.

The new system, initiated by conservative superintendents, aims to strengthen teachers’ abilities through mutual appraisal. The rejection of such a policy is unacceptable. We cannot but assume that the KTEWU is trying to take advantage of the election of liberal Kwak No-hyun as Seoul school superintendent.

However, our worries do not end there. Most of the inauguration committees or task forces set up by progressive superintendents across the country are filled with KTEWU members. In the seven task forces organized by Kwak, for example, almost half of the member teachers are former or current union members, with the rest of them belonging to other liberal civic groups. No one from the conservative Korean Federation of Teachers’ Associations was included on Kwak’s task forces.

Chang Man-chai, the newly elected superintendent of South Jeolla, also filled most of the spots on his inauguration committee - 13 out of 16 - with former or incumbent members of the union. Against this backdrop, we are deeply worried about the possibility that the KTEWU may have a disproportionate influence on superintendents and their policies.

In interviews with the press since he was elected, Kwak has stressed that once in office, he would not wholeheartedly follow or advocate for the KTEWU’s positions. He also promised that he would become a superintendent who welcomes input from both the union and KFTA. But the fact that he has created several task forces that are almost certain to follow the policies of the KTEWU makes us doubt his true intentions.

We hope that he will be able to craft his policies by listening to different views from across the broad spectrum of the entire education field. He should not forget that if he clings too tightly to education policies that are one-sided, he will be remembered as a man who ruined our children’s education.

Meanwhile, the KTEWU should not bring misfortune on itself or deepen the chaos in our education system by exploiting Kwak’s election in its favor. A plan like that is sure to backfire.
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