Requirements create unfairness

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Requirements create unfairness


Lee Ki-wu

Requiring three years of experience in education to run in elections for the position of the head of the education office has two meanings.

First, it creates an entry barrier because a person without a certain level of experience in the educational field cannot run. It means that those without the experience will be ruled out, while the few qualified people will occupy the posts. No matter how passionate you are for local education, your way to become the head of an education office will be blocked completely unless you have experience as a teacher or an educational public servant.

Second, the right of voters to choose candidates will be restricted because candidates without education experience will be ruled out from the beginning.

Requiring experience to run in elections means a drastically unfair game. It grants a privilege to the people with experience in education. And such privileges can only be justified when there is an undeniably unavoidable exception.

Some argued that experience is needed to ensure the professionalism of education. But the professionalism guaranteed by the Constitution means the professionalism of teachers, not the heads of education office heads. To ensure the teachers’ professionalism, teachers much be qualified and trained to maintain a high level of quality, while administrators must not infringe upon their professionalism unreasonably.

If professionalism in education means professionalism for education office heads, it will also mean that the minister of education will have to have experience in education. It is hard to prove that an education minister with relevant experience will be more effective than an education minister without experience. The same reasoning holds for the education office heads.

In some cases, those with experience can be better at developing local education, but there can always be opposing cases. Barring those with no experience from running in the elections therefore has no convincing ground.

It is also unclear who can be called an education expert. The tasks for an education office head include not only teaching students but also the construction of schools, ensuring the safety of commuting, sanitary issues and environment as well as life-time education, conflict mediation and other general administrative duties. It is practically impossible to define who should be seen as an education expert.

There is rarely a country that directly elects education office heads, but no country requires educational experience just to become a candidate.

Since we have a direct election system for education office heads, the choice must be left to the constituents. The job is not a simple administrative duty; it is a post where you have to make political decisions that can be as powerful as a mayor of a metropolitan city or a governor.

To this end, we need to make efforts to recruit talented officials, even when that means leaving the small world of the education community. The experience requirement for elections excessively restricts the right of citizens to hold a post and the right of voters to chose who they want. It is just giving special benefits to those with an education career.

Erecting barriers based on an unclear basis and standard, giving privilege to those with a background in education, is unacceptable and also against the Constitution. For the sake of fairness, the requirement must be abolished.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.

*The author is a professor of law at Inha University

By Lee Ki-wu
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