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[Editorial] Teachers' unjustifiable walkout from classes for protest rally

[Editorial] Teachers' unjustifiable walkout from classes for protest rally

Posted October. 25, 2000 20:45,   


Unionized teachers held large protest rallies Tuesday, skipping their classes. By doing so, they grossly neglected their duties as teachers. It can be likened to soldiers' desertion of their battlefields. In no way can they justify the holding of such rallies in the daytime on weekdays, resulting in students' loss of lessons.

An enormous number of teachers dodged classes for the rally. Thus, the students had to study themselves without teachers or had to go home earlier than usual. This is a critical time for high school graduating students, with impending scholastic aptitude tests for their senior matriculation. Naturally, the students expressed their regrets over the fact that the teachers deserted them in order to march through the streets for their demonstration.

The teachers' skipping of classes is the first such incident since the formation of the teachers' union in July, which should be taken as a serious issue. Teachers' unionized activities have just started, and it is inevitable that they will go through the process of trial and error. But the teachers must not forget that their unionized activities should have limits. Being vigilant guards of our educational fronts, the teachers' action should in nature be viewed as clearly different from those of ordinary workers.

The teachers argue that there was nothing wrong with their participation in the rally because they had asked their schools for lawful time off. But it is a gross negligence of their duties and professional code of conduct that they decided to hold the rally on weekdays and that they walked out of their schools en masse.

Tuesday's incident should have taught us the lesson that principles must be kept in protests of unionized teachers. For example, they should make it a rule that they will not hold any rallies at hours when they are to teach classes. This rule is what common sense dictates to be the minimum requirement. Unless there is such a minimum rule, such unfortunate circumstances of class cancellations can always occur again. If such rallies recur, the teachers, whether they so intended or not, can hardly avoid the criticism that they are staging protests by holding students hostage for their struggle.

From Tuesday's rallies, it turned out that only students were innocent victims and sufferers. The utmost priority in educational policies must be given to neither teachers nor educational authorities, but to students. Tuesday¡¯s incident showed us again that our education system has not still changed to cater primarily for students, who are the sovereign consumers of education.

We must also examine the root cause that has brought about the teachers' rally this time. Substantial blame should be laid on the Ministry of Education, which has dilly-dallied to date as to default its agreement with the teachers' union. The Ministry of Education must conduct serious retrospection as well as make due efforts to compromise with the union's demands in order to resolve the situation via dialogue at the earliest possible date.