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Principal Leads Teacher Evaluation Row

Posted November. 19, 2005 08:21,   


After the principal of Hangang Middle School, Mun Gye-cheol, told Dong-A Ilbo that “the quality of school education improved after students assessed teachers,” he became the target of criticism from the teachers’ union that is opposed to the teacher evaluation system.

Mun then volunteered to be evaluated himself.

When the article came out, many people made encouraging calls to Mr. Mun. However, the teachers of Hangang Middle School had to suffer from criticism and protests of teachers from other schools. There were even widespread misunderstandings within the school that the teachers were used as a scapegoat amid the controversy.

Understandably, teachers became extremely sensitive. Before October, 85.7 percent of the teachers who were evaluated by students approved of being reevaluated, but not anymore. On November 12, in a survey on whether to operate a trial of the evaluation system, the majority of the teachers cast a “no” vote.

“I do not intend to introduce the system if the teachers are against it. However, I handed out the survey because I thought it was desirable to learn the good sides of the system,” explained Mr. Mun.

He distributed the “survey on the principal’s management of the school” to 34 teachers on November 14, and the “survey on the level of content of parents on the principal’s management” to 100 parents on November 15. On the survey, he had 40 questions regarding the teachers including whether an effective communication channel between teachers is in place, and whether teachers actively participate to make the budget more effective. For the parents, he had 20 questions including questions assessing whether parents’ opinions were reflected when the education curriculum is organized, and whether parents actively cooperate in the running of the school management commission.

“Teachers replied that I give minimal attention to reducing administrative workload. I will report to the Ministry of Education that a teacher’s workload increases in schools with less students and do my best to get assistant teachers assigned to our school,” Mun said.

Also, regarding the strong demand from parents for special aptitude programs, he said, “We sent out a notice to parents but no one applied for the program. I will see to it that communications are made more effective by using mobile phones when there is an important notice.”

“I was surprised to receive the survey, and it changed my views on the school and teachers. I came to respect the principal and thought about what I could do to help as a parent,” said Kim Mi-hee (43) who lives in Yongsan, Seoul.

“The teacher evaluation practiced in our school would have been praised as an exemplary trial if there were no controversy over the system. It is true that we had a tough time being criticized by fellow teachers from other schools. I thank the principal for voluntarily conducting the survey to increase the quality of education and to clarify misunderstandings,” said Seol Sun-guk, a teacher of Hangang Middle School.

Behind Principal Mun’s decision lies his motto that the principal must become a competent CEO and actively engage in the development of a school. Since becoming the principal of Hangang Middle School last September, he has kept busy trying to enhance the school environment while leaving most of the schoolwork to the vice principal.

He added, “I also thought that by conducting teacher evaluations after evaluating the principal, there would be less opposition from teachers.”

Seong-Ju Lee stein33@donga.com