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[Opinion] Education, Productivity and Elitism

Posted August. 02, 2008 09:31,   


Educational policies in most advanced countries are rapidly evolving toward competition, causing dizzy spells. The United Kingdom has even released statistics on education productivity. By dividing cash input by General Certificate of Secondary Education results, education productivity fell 0.7 percent in 2006 from 2000. If a similar survey was conducted in Korea, a country that highly honors education, it would have drawn a huge public outcry. Discontent by Korean parents over educational policy, however, is no higher than people in other countries.

As more parents disappointed with Korean education send their children abroad, intergenerational education mobility has greatly jumped. The United Kingdom is also promoting a policy of “transnational boundary education,” stressing keeping up with global levels rather than winning first place in the United Kingdom. To that end, the nation has allowed foreign experts to evaluate educational achievements. The crucial point of the system is to improve the education of every child, something nobody is opposed to.

In stark contrary to this trend, Korea is seeing a debate over elitist education ignite yet another controversy. Since the election of a superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education who stresses competition among schools, the Education, Science and Technology Ministry said it will make public students’ test scores. Each school’s test results will be released after students take a nationwide evaluation. The announcement immediately drew criticism for inciting elitism. Those opposed say creating more competition among schools is a concept from a bygone era. We should, however, carefully gauge who benefits or suffers from this proposed system.

Teachers and schools will surely feel the heat if test results are released. This is because they will fall under heavy pressure from their communities and parents, as their performances will be compared with their rivals or with other regions. Teachers’ unions and educational authorities will suffer the same fate. Given that gaps in achievement mean failure on their part, calls will grow for public education reform such as introduction of a teacher assessment system. Teachers’ unions opposed to elitism have a major stake in this matter. For this reason, we believe teacher opposition to competition among schools is not pure. Furthermore, the offer will benefit students over the long term. We have no time for an ideological struggle when developed countries are eager to advance their nations.

Editorial Writer Hong Chan-sik (chansik@donga.com)