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School to Make Final Decision, Concern Rises over Confusion

School to Make Final Decision, Concern Rises over Confusion

Posted June. 01, 2003 22:34,   


▽Govt Takes Sharp Turn

Sources in the education community point out that the decision to allow high schools to temporarily adopt the new students database system, or NEIS, against the agreement last week with the Korea Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU) is seen as inevitable since it would be almost impossible to go back to the old Client Server (CS) system with 97% of primary, middle and high schools nationwide already using the new database.

Prime Minister Goh met with Yoo In-tae, Education Superintendent for Seoul and also Chairman of the Korea Education Superintendents` Association, last week. At the meeting, chairman Yoo said that the only way to resolve the growing conflict is to go ahead with NEIS.

Then, Prime Minister Goh presided over an emergency meeting with high-ranking policymakers on May 31 and decided to push for implementation of the database system.

Goh`s intervention came as the government realized that Minister of Education Yoon is not trusted by education organizations enough to deal with the problem himself. At the emergency meeting, Goh reportedly reproved the minister harshly.

▽Concern over Confusion

Now that the ministry allows schools to decide whether to adopt NEIS, CS, a computer only-based system (SA) or handwriting for the three problem areas up to second grades, individual schools will make a final decision.

Given that most schools are already using NEIS, a majority will likely choose the database system. The system is not only more convenient to use compared to the old CS or SA, but also preferred by the government. Therefore, most of schools will not choose CS, SA or the inconvenient handwriting over NEIS.

Some, however, raise concern that advocates of NEIS, including principals and non-members of KTU, and KTU members opposing the database could clash over adoption of information system.

“The decision to allow individual schools to make a final decision will only end up wasting time and fueling confusion since schools will have to consolidate systems in February next year,” pointed out Kim Hyung-woon, Chairman of the Korea Education Information Workers` Association.

If KTU fights against implementation of NEIS in league with civic groups and pushes for a walkout on June 20, the education ministry, having said that such a collective action would be a violation of the law, will have to punish those involved, which will in turn lead a fresh round of conflict.

The ministry will not likely let go a large number of progressive teachers, however. Instead, some citations and disciplinary measures are more likely.

▽Education Organizations Respond to Decision

The Korea Education Superintendents Association welcomed the decision, and teachers and education workers associations also softened their rhetoric against the ministry.

The Korea National and Private School Principals` Association held a press conference and said, ˝It seems that the minister of education, which is responsible for sound education policymaking, has given up his authority and responsibility.˝ It criticized that the minister is passing the buck to schools at the risk of putting the entire education community in turmoil.

The Korea Teachers and Education Workers Union issued a statement and raised the concern, “With the decision, the government seems to avoid assuming responsibility by letting schools make a final decision, which will high likely fuel conflicts and confusion within schools.”

“The decision will serve as a catalyst for conflicts by provoking clashes between teachers or teachers organizations,” said KTU. “It will end up leaving individual schools handling the problem.”

“Although it is seen as a step ahead from the earlier stance, it still comes short of providing specific guidelines,” said Kim Joon-seok, information system teacher at Youngdo Middle School in Seoul. “Few schools are doing handwriting and adoption of the old CS seems impossible, so schools will have to choose NEIS in the end.”

In-Chul Lee inchul@donga.com