A poor portrait of our teachers
Koreans are most unhappy about their teaching jobs among all Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries. In the 2013 OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey, 20 percent of Korean middle school teachers said that they regret having chosen to become a teacher. The ratio was the highest among all 34 member countries. If they had another chance, 36 percent said they would not become a teacher. The ratio was the third highest behind Sweden, with 46.6 percent, and Japan’s 41.9 percent. The OECD last year polled 105,000 teachers in secondary schools and many teachers said they were passionate and proud of their job. But since then, a considerable number have become skeptical and frustrated with teaching.
Teachers’ pride and dignity have declined with the breakdown in public education. The survey shows the collective lethargy among teachers and must not be ignored. It sends a strong message that society must restore the reputation and dignity of teachers. If teachers are discontent and uninterested in their job, the damage will spill over to their students. Education authorities must come up with measures to rekindle passion in the teaching profession.
Needless to say, the voices of the teachers must be heard. Yang Jeong-ho, a professor at Sungkyunkwan University who reviewed the survey, said Korean teachers were overly burdened with extra-teaching work - 8.2 percent of their job is taken up by administrative work and 13.6 percent by their responsibilities in the classroom. They gradually lose interest and passion in their job because a lot of their time and energy does not go toward teaching and they are constrained by rigid hierarchical faculty culture. Authorities must sit down with teachers and parents to raise more liberty in schools.
Eagerness among teachers can lead to vitality and progress in the teaching community. Their commitment to their job can shape our children’s future. We cannot expect creative and individualistic minds to grow if teachers aren’t interested in their job. It is our duty to make the classroom fun, exciting, and inspiring for both teachers and students.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 10, Page 34