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[Op-Ed] Fruitless Conflicts Among Students

Posted November. 27, 2008 03:09,   


How could a principal steal the overtime allowance from teachers?’ This is a message on a placard made by students of Ulsan Central Girls’ High School. An emergency committee consisting of parents and alumnae said more insulting sentences are written on the placard attached to the door of the principal’s office. The school wall is full of dirty scribbles. The committee said, “Students are divided into those supporting teachers belonging to the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union and those supporting the principal. Both parties have fought each other since Oct. 30, when the college entrance exam was coming up.”

While the Ulsan Metropolitan Office of Education encouraged its schools to provide supplementary lessons, it urged them to give tutoring fees to teachers who provide lectures and administrative allowances to principals, vice principals and other administrative workers. The education office sought to avoid discord between teachers and other administrative staff. After the decision, the school began providing 300,000 won per month to the principal, which has invited a serious problem. The administrative allowance given to the principal is not decided by the principal, but by a steering committee consisting of parents, teachers and outsiders.

High school students in Ulsan are hardly exemplary. In a nationwide examination in April, 2008, only 12.3 seniors received the highest or second-highest grades in Ulsan, lower than the national average of 15.9. Sophomores or juniors have fared no better. Lee In-hwa, chairman of the emergency committee, said, “This school’s juniors and seniors could be recognized as outstanding performers this year since the principal, who came to this school in September, has made an all-out effort. The recent conflict is not about the money. It is a conspiracy to expel the principal who has encouraged teachers.”

Teachers belonging to the teachers’ union say the principal has persuaded parents to take his side in classes. The Ulsan education office has defended giving the administrative allowance to the principal, but its ruling has not quelled the conflict. Union members, who have received tutoring fees of between 600,000 and 800,000 won per month, have caused the conflict by claiming the principal has received 300,000 won per month. Teachers belonging to the union have invited many problems to schools. The victims of this confrontation are the students and parents, not teachers.

Editorial Writer Huh Mun-myeong angelhuh@donga.com