Friday, December 29, 2006

Enslaved in Incheon

you have the right to work
SHIT LIKE THIS is why both UNESCO and the ILO recommended, back in 1966, that teacher organizations have the same rights as other labour organizations.

Incidentally, the KFTA missed that particular recommendation in their recent report to the CEART. Not that it matters much: I'd wager half a limb that no one in either the ministry of education or the national KTU executive has even read the recommendations.

Ah well, at least the KFTA is aware that folks beyond the peninsula might occasionally have something to offer teachers. This, and their posh resort beside Bomun Lake, justifies their knee-scuffed existence.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

No defense like a good offense

Our new president, Jeong Jin Hwa, won support for her pledge to focus on the principles of chamgyoyook, or as the Hankyoreh put it, go "back to the classrooms."

I wasn't aware that we had left the classrooms. It's disheartening to watch: the union has been forced to use the rhetoric of its opponents to define itself, its methods and goals.

Members I spoke with hope that she will establish a rapport with "the public." It may be that members hope she can placate the media before an extremist moves into Cheong Wa Dae. And who knows, editors might call off their attack dogs if the national exec prostrates itself before them.

But as I've said before, a union that fails to spend a single won on advertising is entirely at the mercy of the red-baiters. It's past time for a very public and continuing campaign. Subway cars, billboards, radio, newspapers, websites, TV. Beg borrow or steal the money to hire a marketing agency to see it through. I'd recommend nothing (overtly) ideological: simple shit like "If you can read this, thank a teacher" and "We are committed to your child's learning." Yes, columnists will make snide remarks, it won't much matter.

The strategy, I think, should be to associate teachers with learning. (This may sound absurd to readers outside Korea but trust me, when a parent hears the words "education" or "school," the last thing that comes to mind is a teacher.) Members will return, new ones will join, and the sanctimonious invectives of our opponents will be less effective. Then we might have more space and, eventually, more resources to pursue chamgyoyook.

Whither the money for this campaign? Kill the weekly newspapers. Encourage members to use all those great sites the union has developed, and save the trees.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

"The bills are expected to help narrow the gap on working conditions between regular and non-regular workers to a great extent"

The vicious fucks did it.

Non-regular workers, estimated at 8.5 million, account for almost half of the total workforce, the highest among OECD countries.

They receive no more than 60 percent of regular workers' wages doing roughly the same work, with no social security nets such as medical and unemployment insurance.

The sharp increase of contract workers, since the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, is said to be the main culprit of economic polarization.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

At least 270 Iraqi academics dead

Education Under Siege

British operatives caught in Basra
Inter Press Service
Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily

BAGHDAD, Nov 18 (IPS) - The recent kidnapping of scores of academics in Baghdad highlights the desperate situation of the educational system in occupied Iraq.

Armed men wearing Iraqi police uniforms abducted as many as 150 academics from the Ministry of Higher Education on Tuesday.

Alaa Makki, the head of the Parliament's education committee called the action a "national catastrophe" and the minister of higher education, Abed Dhiab al-Ujaili, announced that teaching in all of Baghdad's universities would be halted "until we find out what happened," and because "we are not ready to lose more professors."

While 70 of the academics have been released since then, others remain missing.

Academics, along with other professionals, have been increasingly targeted by sectarian violence which continues unchecked across much of Iraq. Thousands of professors and university researchers have long since fled the war-torn country.

An administration manager of a large university in Baghdad spoke with IPS on condition of anonymity: "Iraqi universities have turned into militia and death squad headquarters... Pictures of clerics and sectarian flags all over are not the only problem, but there is the interference of clerics and their followers in everything."

The university employee, who said he fears for his life each day he goes to work, explained that religious clerics now had the authority to "sack teachers and students, forbid certain texts, impose certain uniforms and even arrest and kill those who belong to other sects or those who object to their behaviour."

He angrily added, "Our government seems to approve all that, as no security office ever intervened to protect teachers and students or make any change to the situation."

Iraqi security forces have been accused of taking part in, or at least ignoring several mass kidnappings, which are widely believed to have been carried out by sectarian groups. The Sunni minority have blamed many of the kidnappings on armed groups from what are now the dominant Shi'ite political parties, who also control the Ministry of Interior.

what they were carrying
The higher education ministry is currently headed by a member of the main Sunni Arab political bloc.

The 2003 U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, with the broken promises of reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq's educational system, have not been the only cause of the current disaster.

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) had reported before the 1991 Gulf War that Iraq had one of the best educational performances in the region. Literacy rates were extremely high and primary school enrollment was 100 percent.

The number of schools in Iraq under the Saddam Hussein regime (1979-2003) increased due to the compulsory learning law enacted in the 1970s. A huge campaign for the eradication of illiteracy was organised and people had to send their children to school to avoid legal repercussions.

The Ba'ath party had influence on the kind of subjects studied concerning religion. In addition, education administrators and teachers preferred to join the ruling party, mostly for job security, but they still had to be scientifically qualified as teachers.

Being members of the Ba'ath party when the U.S.-led occupation began, particularly when CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) Administrator Paul Bremer instituted the "de-Ba'athification" plan, caused most teachers and administrators to be fired, arrested or later to be assassinated by death squads and replaced by others who were selected by new ruling parties, which tended to be Shi'ite religious fundamentalists.

These factors, on top of the harsh economic sanctions and the current occupation, have left Iraq's education system in shambles.

"The newly employed teachers are either selected for being members of Islamic parties in power or those who paid bribes in order to get the job," a chief education supervisor in Baghdad told IPS, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He has managed to keep his job since he had never joined the Ba'ath Party, and added that other problems had arisen because, "Some of them [teachers] are too old to teach and others brought fraudulent graduation certificates that we could not deny because they were sent to us by parties who have militias."

Billions of dollars were supposedly spent for rehabilitating schools that were severely bombed by U.S. war planes during the 2003 invasion. However, the quality of work by foreign contractors, such as Bechtel Corporation, and their subcontractors was so poor that thousands of schools across the country remain in a state of disrepair.

Most of the money was spent on repainting and supplying the schools with cheap equipment that has not stood for long.

"The money for rebuilding schools just vanished between the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and the western contractors and so we still need a lot to be done," Abdel Aziz, an education manager told IPS, "We are doing our best to facilitate the educational operation, but we are facing a great deal of problems with the capacity of our schools and teachers."

Another problem in some areas is the misuse of school buildings. People in conflict-ridden areas like Ramadi and parts of Baghdad have complained that U.S. soldiers use school buildings as combat posts, especially for snipers.

Other schools are used by militias and death squads in areas of Baghdad and southern provinces of Iraq.

Today, security is perhaps the major problem facing the education system. Teachers and students find it too dangerous to move between their homes and schools under such a chaotic security situation. Further complicating matters, there is great fear of abduction for ransom and an even greater of for assassination by death squads.

And the poor state of Iraq's economy has exacerbated the situation.

"There is no possible way for me to cover school expenses," Omar Jassim told IPS. Father of four from Baghdad, Jassim said, "I am unemployed and life became too expensive, as well as the high school bus fare and clothes for the children. I had to cut them from school and make them help me provide food for the family."

Many families have decided not to send their children to school and have instead pushed them to work as cleaning boys or beggars in the streets.

Last month Iraq's Ministry of Education released statistics which indicated that only 30 percent of Iraq's 3.5 million students were attending classes. This is less than half the number from the previous year, which, according to the Britain-based non-governmental organisation Save the Children, was 75 percent attendance.

Attendance rates for the new school year which started on Sep. 20 were at a record low, according to the ministry.

According to the Ministry of Education, 2006 has been the worst year for school attendance since U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. The immediate pre-war level of attendance in 2003 was nearly 100 percent.

At least 270 academics have been killed during the occupation, according to the Iraq study group Brussels Tribunal.

Posted by Dahr_Jamail at November 18, 2006 04:56 PM

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Teachers Sour Over English Training Plan

A little article in the Korea Times on the response of English teachers to the ministry's audacious plans.
Many Korean English-language teachers are nervous about the planning of the nation's English education system as many of them would face forcible premature retirement unless they can conduct classes in English by 2015.
Those lazy, selfish teachers, always with the griping and the gnashing of teeth.

Here is some context:

There are sound pedagogical approaches that require the use of L1 in language lessons. It's an invaluable teacher resource. Even input-obsessed Stephen Krashen suggests that 10% of teacher talk should be in L1.

Angel Lin in Hong Kong studied language classrooms with students from a disadvantaged socio-economic background, and argues very persuasively that teacher-led discourse can employ strategic use of L1:
what matters is not whether a teacher uses the L1 or the L2 but rather how a teacher uses either language to connect with students and help them transform their attitudes, dispositions, skills, and self-image - their habitus or social world (Lin, A. 1999. Doing-English-Lessons. TESOL Quarterly 33[3] pp. 393-412).
Of course, teachers are again being scapegoated. Kids can't speak English because their teachers can't.

Never mind that the spoken English of 95% of teachers is better than that of 95% of students.

Never mind that the all-powerful CSAT (which is being taken as I type) requires structural proficiency in English, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the ability to communicate in the language.

And never mind that students in many other countries (including China) learn English from a younger age, and devote up to twice the number of classroom hours to the language.

Professional development is always good, even if it's led by a bloated and backward government department. It would be far better if teachers themselves had access to resources sufficient to develop and facilitate such projects, as is the norm in other UNESCO member countries.

Friday, September 29, 2006

South Korea: Solidarity needed! The crack down on the KGEU still continues today!

KGEU Breaking News 060927
September 27, 2006


Your solidarity is needed!

Today is the 4th day of the crack down on the KGEU local offices. 111 local offices were forcefully closed down nation wide. Every working day has seen the violent attacks on the union offices and the arrests of the union members since last Friday. The riot police and the specially hire thugs have raided the union office from dawn till midnight.

Many KGEU offices were violently broken into and closed down. Riot police and thugs armed with fire extinguishers, fire-fighting dust, hammers, claw hammers, hammer drills and power saws broke through the windows or even by making an opening in the wall to storm into union offices. KGEU members were forcefully pulled out of the union offices and arrested. The union offices the union offices were sealed off with iron plates or bars in many cases.

KGEU members struggle all around the country against inhumane and barbaric raids by local governments and riot police.

It was a war between a democratic and independent trade union and an authoritarian and barbaric government. It was a war between those who believe in freedom of association for all workers and those who believe that trade union rights could be subject to government rulings.

We need your solidarity now!

Please send your solidarity message to the KGEU! It will greatly encourage and empower our members in this critical moment. It will let our members know we are not alone.

Please send your protest letter to the Korean government! Let them know that the world is witnessing and that this brutal repression can not be accepted.

The addresses and contact points will be attached in the end of this news break.

Today's targets were the KGEU Chapters in Gyeonggi.

From 06:00, the riot police were deployed around the union office in Bucheon City in Gyeonggi-do(province). And the execution officials with the riot police began to try to break into the union office. Welding machines and hammers were used. At 07:00, the doors were removed. 25 union members were resisting the violent closure inside the office, to which they even chained themselves. But the riot police and the execution officials took over the office at 07:45 and the union members were pulled out. (Photos from struggles at Bucheon)

An attack on the KGEU Gyeonggi Gwacheon Chapter started from 10:20 with the riot police deployed. The riot police broke the walls with hammers to sweep into the union office. The union members inside were severely beaten up and arrested at 11:30. 18 members from KGEU and solidarity organisations were arrested and taken to the local police stations. 4 of those were seriously injured and hospitalised.

In Suwon, the riot police and the execution officials broke into the union office at 09:30. The doors and the whole walls were broken down. The union members were pulled out by the riot police and a woman member was just thrown away.

7 more KGEU chapters in Gyeonggi-do were forcefully closed down.

The KGEU Osan Chapter office was closed down at 11:30, Hwaseong Chapter at 15:40, Anyang Chapter and Goyang Chapter at 18:40, Pocheon Chapter at 19:00, Pyeongtaek chapter at 19:10 and Icheon Chapter was also shut off today. Besides Ansan Chapter was also warned that it would be closed down tomorrow.

The KGEU Jinju Chapter, the only case that defeated the attack on the union office is now facing forceful closure again. The riot police began to be deployed from 17:30 today. At 18:00 the municipality warned that they will implement the warrant of administrative execution for forceful closing down of the union office at 07:00 tomorrow morning. The riot police already deployed at the 7th floor where the union office is located. The aisle of the floor is filled with the riot police and they are blocking union members from walking around the union office. The unionists are substantially confined. If the unionists go out for toilet, they are not allowed to come back to the office. Hundreds of the unionists and the members from solidarity organisations are blocked at the lobby of the building. Now a protest rally is being held in front of the building and sit-in protests inside and outside the union office will be held overnight.

The addresses and contact points

KGEU (Korean Government Employees' Union)
7th F1. Daeyoung Bldg. 139 Youngdeungpo-2-ga. Youngdeungpo-gu
Seoul 150-982, Korea
Tel : +82-2-2631-1949 / Fax : +82-2-2631-1949
Email :

Contact points and addresses of the Korean Government

Mr. Roh Moo-Hyun
President of the Republic
1 Sejong-no, Jongno-gu
Seoul 110-820, Republic of Korea
Tel: +822 770-0018; Fax: + 82 2 770-03 47 or 770-0001 / + 82 2 770-25 79. E-mail:

Ms. Han Myeong-sook
Prime Minister
77-6 Sejongno, Jongno-gu
Seoul, Republic of Korea
Fax: + 82-2-720-35 71

Mr. Ban Ki-moon
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
91-5 Doryeom-dong, Jongno-gu
Seoul, Republic of Korea
Fax : 82-2-2100-7913

Mr. Kim Sung-ho
Minister of Justice
1 Jungang-dong, Gwacheon Government Complex
Gyeonggi Prov., Republic of Korea
Fax: + 82-2-504-5724 / +82-2-503-3337 / +82-2-503-3532

Mr. Lee Sang-soo
Minister of Labour
2 Jungang-dong, Gwacheon
Gyeonggi Prov. Republic of Korea
Fax : + 82-2-3679-6581

Mr. Lee Yong-sup
Minister of Government Administration and Home Affairs
77-6 Sejongno, Jongno-gu
Seoul, Republic of Korea
Fax : + 82-2-3703-5531

National Human Rights Commission of Korea
16 Euljiro 1-ga, Jung-gu
Seoul 100-842, Republic of Korea
Fax: +82 2 2 125 98 11 / 96 66

KIM Seok
C.P. : +82-(0)16-237-5940
Executive Director of International Relations
Korean Government Employees' Union
Tel: +82-2-2631-1948 Fax: +82-2-2631-1949
Web: (Kor) (Eng)

Return to LabourStart

Thursday, September 21, 2006

another great article on Oaxaca teachers

On ZNet: "Oaxaca's dangerous teachers"
"Education is a very noble field, which I love," Gutierrez says. "But today it means confronting the government. You have to be ready to fight for the people and their children, and not just in the classroom."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

a more enlightened social engineering

The Ministry of Education is finally, finally, going to write some of its more egregious nonsense out of primary school coursebooks, according to the Hankyoreh.

Some of the changes:

Family Planning Good
  Family Planning Bad
We are One Blood   We Might Have Chinese, Mongol and Japanese Blood Too But That's OK As Long As They Have the Right Name
The Elderly are Useless Eaters   Maybe Grandmother Helps Too

Father’s hard work as a breadwinner and mother’s supportive role to other family members, which enables them to concentrate on their work, are not only important for the well-being of the family but also that of the country.
  The Country Needs Mother to Work Too

But teachers shall remain "politically neutral" as they continue to teach kids how to be good citizens. Those who encourage kids to question what they read need not apply.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Saturday, September 02, 2006

new minister of education

Kim Shinil is the newest education minister. So I looked at a paper he published in Korea Journal, "Korean education: past and present" in 1987:
"social taming, indocrinating, instrumentalizing, anti-intellectualization and dehumanization processings are all being done under the name of education."

He discusses the "intrinsic value" of an education! The Chosun Ilbo will love this guy.

No, not really. The theme of any given Chosun editorial on education: Give us more pliant, semi-literate serfs! None of this liberal humanist nonsense for Korea!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Teachers in Oaxaca will not be cowed

not fucking around

ZNet article
counterpunch essay
BBC coverage

Teachers in Oaxaca continue to lead the revolt against corrupt governor Ulises Ruiz.

Meanwhile, teachers in Korea upload posters to internet sites (Seoul) and make videos critical of free trade agreements (Busan).

I understand that folks are proud of what was accomplished in 1987, and they should be. But there is a great deal of work yet to be done.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

You do it to yourself, you do

noja at Frog in a Well points out that the english craze isn't exactly new:
... English was also an OBLIGATORY subject in the colonial Advanced Normal Schools after the 1922 reform - it was taught 5-7 hours a week on average, while Japanese was taught 6-8 hours.
Kind of reminds me of the old Radiohead song, "Just."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Education International speaks out on Lebanon - sort of

Education International, of which the KTU is a member organization, issued a statement on July 25th:

Populations have been caught in the middle, with suicide bombings that have stretched the nerves of Israelis to the limit, with Palestinians subjected to repression and humiliation, and the Lebanese being kept hostage by a pervasive climate of fear.

Yes, we are often told of the frayed nerves of Israelis. The Lebanese, those who have managed (thus far) to survive Israel's terror attacks, are "being kept hostage"? By whom? Not Hizbullah, whom a majority of Lebanese (including Sunnis and Christians) now support. Why does EI accept that Palestinians are victims, yet use such vague language to describe the plight of the Lebanese?

Of course, EI issued this statement prior to Qana. And I do not believe that the KTU has issued a statement of any kind. EI has also set up a solidarity fund for teachers in Lebanon, to which it donated 20 000 euros. An excellent use of our union dues!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

On the nature of the english camp

From the Korea Times:

"The number of students joining English camp programs during the summer vacation this year surpassed 90,000, up 135 percent from last year."

Now if I were a sociologist, or cultural anthropologist, or a member of any number of academic discourse communities, I'd consider this news evidence of overt cultural imperialism. After all, these camps offer training at the "Bank of America" and "Holiday [insert e.g. Flag Day, Thanksgiving] sing-along chorale."

But I am a mere language teacher, happy in my role as miniscule imperial adjuvant. O who will help me to carry the heavy burden of the White Man?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

BWI online solidarity campaign

Click over to the Building and Wood Workers' International site and support their campaign on behalf of worker rights in Korea.

From the petition:
Respect and Implement the Recommendations made by the CFA of the ILO;specifically:
- Ensure that public servants at Grade 5 or higher obtain the right to organize and limit any restriction of the right to strike to public servants exercising authority in the name of the State an dessential services in the strict sense of the term.
- Bring the Section 314 of the Penal Code of the TULRAA in line with Freedom of Association Principles
- Recall the prohibition of third party intervention in industrial disputes incompatible with freedom of association principles.
- Refrain from any act of interference in the activities of the KGEU.
- Cease all actions of intimidation and harassment against the KFCTIU.
- Review all convictions and prison sentences to compensate the KGEU and KFCITU officials for any damages suffered as a result of prosecution, detention, and imprisonment.

Friday, June 09, 2006

ICFTU publishes report on attacks on workers in 2005

For those deluded or cynical souls who do not recognize class warfare:

Brutal Suppression of Workers’ Rights Detailed in Worldwide Report

115 trade unionists were murdered for defending workers’ rights in 2005, while more than 1,600 were subjected to violent assaults and some 9,000 arrested, according to the ICFTU’s Annual Survey of Trade Union Rights violations, published today. Nearly 10,000 workers were sacked for their trade union involvement, and almost 1,700 detained.

South Korea receives dishonourable mention:

Kim Tae-hwan, of South Korean trade union centre FKTU was one of 17 Asian trade unionists killed during 2005, run over by a truck driver who was following police orders to drive through a picket line at a cement works.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I quit.

This is what happened.

A Korean-American teacher at the English Village in Seongnam (allegedly) assaulted primary school students while they were on a nature walk. Not long after, a Korean teacher at the English Village in Ansan (allegedly) assaulted middle school students in their dormitory.

Sohn Hak-kyu, the governor of Gyeonggi (where both Villages are located), apologized for the incidents and promised to improve supervision at the facilities.

This wasn't good enough for the Gyeonggi KTU office, which issued a press release entitled "It is not enough to increase supervision of sexual assault." The release claimed that the governor was ignoring "structural problems" with the Villages:

(1) teaching positions do not require a degree in education, and so underqualified people are hired;
(2) foreign teachers have a "free attitude" to sex, which a few hours of cultural education cannot remedy;
(3) foreign teachers are merely tourists, in Korea for the money or the "experience," and so are not suffiently devoted to their profession; and
(4) with 40 students in a classroom, teachers cannot conduct effective lessons.

The solution, the statement concluded, was to stop spending money on these Villages and to invest instead in public education.

First, I'll attempt to explain what I think Gyeonggi KTU was doing with the release.

The English Villages in Gyeonggi were founded by Governor Sohn, who is an important member of the conservative Hanarra Party. Public education is not a big priority for Sohn or Hanarra, and the KTU used the publicity surrounding the incidents to score some easy political points against Sohn, and to promote public education. Worthwhile goals, in my opinion.

But this is NOT an apology.

Gyeonggi KTU is cynically exploiting the currents of xenophobia that exist in Korea, to its own ends. The release deliberately targeted ill-informed and biased newsreaders, and I was shocked that teaching professionals would do this. The statement attacks EVERY FOREIGN TEACHER IN KOREA.

Unfortunately, despite appeals from various union members and foreign teachers, the Gyeonggi office has refused to retract their statement.

As SOMEONE must accept responsibility for this inane and hateful piece of propaganda, I will resign from the KTU.

This causes me a great deal of pain, as I have made many friends in the union, teachers who are wholly committed to their students and to their profession, and I still believe in the stated goals of the organization (even if the meaning of '참' continues to elude me).

안녕 KTU.

At least now I'll have more time to indulge in my depraved sexual pursuits. Oops, I mean I'll have more time to learn proper, Korean attitudes to sex.

The horror ...

Jason Thomas

p.s. My apologies for all the CAPS. I'M ANGRY.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Hail to the Chief

We have a new president. Frets about her "militancy" should be ignored - as the president is to complete the previous chief's term, which ends in December, she won't be making changes to the executive.

Though why her term should be so abridged, I can't say. She was already vice-president, why did she have to be elected again, merely to complete the previous president's term? I suppose she has somewhat more "authority" now, but why not give her a full term in office? I may be obtuse, will someone please explain the logic at work here?

ILO Panel Calls for Civil Servants' Right to Strike

"An international labor committee has recommended that the South Korean government guarantee civil servants’ right to organize and minimize restrictions on their right to strike."

Whether teachers would avail themselves of this right if it were to be guaranteed is of course another question. Coming (as I do) from a work culture where the (convincing) threat of collective action is a time-honoured route to concessions at the negotiating table, I sometimes wonder how the KTU earns credibility with the Ministry of Education ... is it the weekly newspapers the union publishes and distributes? the conferences it organizes? the offices it maintains? the allies it finds in "civil society?"

How any of these, important as they are, would be perceived as even a marginal threat to government schemes, I can't say.

Give me a picket line or give me nothing!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

open belated congratulatory message to the Berlitz Union Korea

Berlitz Korea Teachers Union
Fantastic! Incredible! Rockabilly Howlin Amen! I don't know the words that might describe what you have accomplished. It had been muttered about for years, but YOU DID IT!

Hats off, shoes off, for one giant leap for every teacher in every institute in every town in the country.

Love, respect, solidarity,

International Working Group
Korean Teachers Union (Incheon)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

To All College Faculty Members Taking Job Action:

March 11, 2006

Ontario Public Service Employees Union
Ontario, Canada

To All College Faculty Members Taking Job Action:

Public service workers throughout the world continue to be attacked by forces determined to create "cheap labour" and hegemony for "market forces."

Your members' collective refusal to retreat in the face of these attacks is an inspiration to workers everywhere.

In solidarity!

Korean Teachers Union

Why is membership on the decline?

It's the start of a new school year, full of hope and promise. And of a dozen new teachers threatening and cajoling kids in classroom and hallway, only ONE is KTU. Thankfully, the ONE is an activist (I see him at the Incheon office, he does technical stuff) and he likes to drink.

It seems many teachers are simply not renewing their memberships when they transfer schools.

The members I talk to say it's an Image Problem. And while it's true that the Grand National Party and its allies in the unholy media triad are ruthless, reckless and relentless, the union simply doesn't have any coherent strategies designed to influence public opinion. Leaders have sit-ins and hunger strikes, but the union doesn't buy space on billboards, radio, or on websites! I've seen the budget, and NO funds are allocated for "public perception" agencies. (And of course, the "public" includes the rank-and-file.) It's no surprise we're taking a beating.

We at KTU like to praise "purity of intention" ... which is fine. But at the moment, parents have no idea what those intentions are.

I hope other team members will respond?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

KTU Welcomes National Human Rights Commission Ruling on Temporary Teachers

Nearly 40 percent of all education workers in urban middle and high schools are irregular workers

As I (and of course all foreign teachers) belong to that 40%, it's good to see the NHRC bringing attention to a few of the ways irregular workers in education are being screwed around. And though I'm glad the union is paying attention, I'm far from grateful, as it could be doing a lot more for 'temporary' teachers.

Hannara Party Encourages Students to Report Progressive Teachers

Too absurd for comment, really. A marginally cooler GNP head must have seen the board, because it wasn't up for long.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

To the New Teacher: Join the Fucking Union

So you're a teacher, prepared with social and cognitive learning theories and pedagogical techniques, and determined to inspire young minds with your wisdom and wit.

What they perhaps didn't teach you at Gyeongin University, but is obvious if you read the paper or watch the news, is that your new profession is under attack: we are told teachers are "irresponsible," "selfish," "incompetent." That's fine, you might think, I'm prepared to put up with this, I know how important the job is, I will maintain a noble posture under fire.

If only it were so simple, that it were a matter of individual teachers persevering! For it's not only you and your profession that is being attacked, but the entire structure of publicly-funded education itself, upon which you stand, that is being attacked, undermined, constantly. And, foundations weakened, it's beginning to sway.

Don't feel it yet? To an outsider, the proliferation of hagwons, and legion of private tutors, in this country speaks very plainly that public education isn't working. And look at the new free economic zones, and now the new 'charter schools.' This is the trend--this is the future that is being prepared, with careful intent and ideological zeal: allow publicly-administered education to deteriorate, and let the companies move in, to pilfer resources and scoop up the most advantaged students.

Parents know that things are bad, and of course they blame teachers. As they should.

But perhaps you protest here--I'm only a public servant, I must remain neutral! And if you really believe this, you deserve parents' blame. Parents don't care what your ideals are. They know that their children are not getting the education they need at school. They feel that your first responsibility is to the children you teach, not your employer the state that is abandoning the most vulnerable of its citizens (the kids in Gangnam will be fine regardless, thank you).

In 1966 UNESCO made a number of recommendations concerning the status of teachers and the teaching profession. Perhaps you learned of these in university? UNESCO recommended, among other things, that teachers be allowed to form professional organizations in member countries. By professional it means self-regulating, self-governing. Teachers decide who will be teachers, and teachers decide who is promoted, and disciplined. Countries that are serious about education follow the recommendations--for who better understands education than teachers? And the experts who drafted the recommendations understood that education would always need passionate advocates, and that organizations of professionals would serve this function.

This is why, in Canada, any time a conservative government attempts to cut funding to education, teachers organize to defend it, to remind parents and media of how essential it is. Of course when teachers must strike, when schools are empty and parents are struggling to find people to care for their young children, the government and conservative media outlets call teachers "selfish" and "irresponsible." This is inevitable. Teachers know what they're doing is important.

Koreans spend more money on education than the people of any other UNESCO country. If teachers had the resolve, Korea's education system could rival that of Denmark or Norway. Unfortunately, it appears that Korea will soon have a system that resembles that of the Philippines. Unless teachers organize.

Your silence, your noble posturing, means complicity, and nothing more.

UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Teachers

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The End of Public Education?

The Chosun Ilbo reports ministry plans to fund "charter schools," starting next year.

Never mind that public funds will pour into places where the public is not welcome, and never mind that charter schools often under-perform public schools in the U.S.

It's pretty clear what's happening in Korean education: public schooling is to be allowed to deteriorate further, so that independent, for-profit companies will be welcomed in, to pillage resources and suck up the children of the upper and middle classes. And with "international schools" in the 'free' economic zones opening soon, a three- or four-tier education system, and a brave new republic.

Wealthy enough to emulate a system like Denmark's, Korea will end up with a system like the Philippines'. Nicely done.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

the Free Teachers Union?!

What is the Dong-A Ilbo talking about? "A new teachers’ union opposing the Korean Teachers and Education Worker`s Union (KTU) will be launched in March."

Wishful thinking? Agit-prop? Somebody fill me in?

How to globalize the labour movement?

A good entry to the Global Labor Strategies blog. Unfortunately, most KTU membership has never heard of Education International, still the best vehicle for building knowledge and solidarity networks across borders.

Calling all English-using members: Promote EI! Translate stuff that interests you for KTU media!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

This is the Uri government.

The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs tells public service workers that their decision to join the KCTU is "illegal": "its collective action of voting is not allowed," said Lee Doo-pyo, an official with the ministry.

They are petulant children, stamping their feet and pouting when people don't listen to them. The KTU response is here.

Find some dignity, gentlemen. You're embarrassing your country.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Don't sing the Alphabet Song - you'll confuse the kids!

My first entry, and I use it to question the union's position on ministry plans to introduce English at the first year of primary education.

As the committee points out, it's true that the ministry of education didn't consult parents or teachers before announcing its plans. After decades (centuries?) of dictatorship, bureaucrats here aren't much in the habit of asking people for their opinions on policy measures.

. . . Knots, thorns, choose your simile, language policy in ROK is a complex issue. The government banned private tutoring because parents were spending "up to 90% of their disposable income" buying input from expert English speakers. Don't blame parents: when the city of Seoul begins conducting job interviews in English, there's no need to jab a wet finger in the air to know what's coming. The gatekeepers have a new lock to be picked.

But the committee's claim that earlier access to English in primary schools will cause "more inequality in education" is difficult to accept. This implies that the ministry of education is responsible for the country's obsession with English, which is nonsense. Or so it appears to this observer. It seems to me that the ministry is simply responding to the demands of universities and employers.

Indeed, it can be argued that this move will reduce inequality. After all, most parents simply cannot afford to send their children abroad for two years; and those first-graders who are to be shipped to Seattle or Sidney really won't need that hour of English they'll get in class every week.

What the committee doesn't say, and what every elementary school teacher knows, is that there simply aren't enough people in schools with the language skills necessary to instruct all these kids. The ministry hopes that teachers will somehow, from somewhere, acquire these skills over the next few years, without it having to invest the kind of money that such extensive training would require.

(And while the release does suggest a wariness of certain hegemonic forces, and the urge to take protective measures against these, I won't explore this now.)

A public education should prepare kids for meaningful, active, and creative participation in the spaces they will find themselves in when they graduate. If the country's schools were adequate, parents wouldn't feel the need to spend so many millions of won on private instruction. Teachers must organize, and demand that the government invest in public education, before the market swallows it.