Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hankyoreh on the challenges facing the KTU

[Editorial] The KTU’s long road back to achieving ‘true education’

“Who has called us educators?”

So started the founding declaration of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU, Jeon Gyo Jo) on May 28, 1989. The document starts with introspection about what teachers had become. “We have infringed on students’ ‘right to learn’ (hakseupgwon) by not responding to the demand for honest education and for having allowed ourselves to become the propaganda brigade of the ruling forces, because of the harsh coercion of the dictatorship regime as it tramples on the independence and political neutrality of education.”

The accomplishments in democratizing education that teachers, parents and students have achieved with sweat and blood in the two decades since the KTU began with that self-reflection as its point of departure are now like a lamp facing the wind. Just like the dictatorships, the Lee Myung-bak administration has made a concerted effort to turn education into part of the propaganda apparatus of the political establishment, turning local boards of education into the administration’s puppets. It has come to the point where teachers are being fired just for informing students of the mere fact they have a choice as to whether to take the state-administered examination, the ilje gosa. You are watching a return of the barbaric era of years ago, when roughly 1,500 teachers were fired at the time of the KTU’s early beginnings.

The administration’s attacks on history textbooks, in order to distort them to its liking while ignoring the scholarly and educational accomplishments in the area, are just one of its many barbaric actions. More basically, the problem is how education marketization policy is tearing education apart and causing extremes of socioeconomic polarization in education in general, this under the name of school autonomy. It is making students into test machines with “school diversification policy” and the policy on “giving schools choice,” which essentially means the revival of the fiercely competitive ipsi university entrance system. It is worsening education’s dependence on extracurricular, supplementary tutoring and turning education into a tool for handing down wealth and social status among the few from one generation to the next.

The KTU has chosen a new leadership team. It feels awkward having to congratulate the new leadership at a time like this. On the other hand, when has KTU ever enjoyed peaceful times? The dictators always tried write off democratic and humane “cham (true) education” as “communist indoctrination” while dismissing teachers who were aware of what needed to be done. The way current administration, the old establishment media, government education authorities at various national and local levels, and public security agencies have joined together as one in the effort is just like it was two decades ago.

The KTU achieved legality despite all the suppression, and it has been the main promoter of the democratization of education. It has been powered by the full support of parents and students, which itself originated in the KTU’s dedication and passion for cham education. In these dark times, we hope to see the KTU rise again for the long march of educational democratization, renewing the resolve it had at its founding, respecting the will of students and parents, and standing tall as the main doers of education that is true.

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Posted on : Dec.13,2008 13:25 KST

1 comment:

sam59527 said...