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[Op-Ed] Critical Lack of Male Teachers

Posted February. 05, 2009 08:30,   


A woman saw the homepage of her son’s school to find out who would be his teacher this year. She cried for joy after her son was placed in the class of a male teacher of high reputation. Her son had been taught by female teachers for the previous five years. Out of fun, parents say their children can be taught by male teachers in elementary schools only if their ancestors did virtuous deeds.

In Korea, the number of female elementary school teachers has far exceeded that of male counterparts. Female teachers accounted for 1,024 of 1,139 teachers (90 percent) who passed the exam to become teachers at public primary schools in Seoul this year. As female teachers account for a bigger share, more principals complain of mounting difficulty in dealing with students, saying they also need male teachers to handle violent students and lead certain events. Young students also need both male and female role models. Certain experts even argue that Korea’s male students have been feminized due to the lack of male teachers.

Of 112 new prosecutors appointed this year, 58 were women or 51 percent. The share of new prosecutor appointees who were women surpassed 50 percent for the first time in history. This is because women accounted for 38 percent of those passing the law bar and have received higher academic results at the Judicial Research and Training Institute. As women accounted for more than half of new prosecutors, male prosecutors have expressed concern. Generally, female prosecutors are expected to deal with their work meticulously. Male prosecutors, however, say their female counterparts are not likely to resolve certain cases, including those related to public safety.

The share of female prosecutors, however, is far lower than that of female teachers. Male prosecutors also make a weak argument that men and women have different capabilities. Police often have to arrest violent criminals, but prosecutors use their brains and legal expertise. On the other hand, more male teachers are urgently needed. Studies show that a woman’s brain structure is better than that of a man’s in reflecting knowledge accumulated via reading on exam performance. Unless changes are made, women will take all positions given to people who pass examinations. Should computer or soccer games be used to pick teachers?

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)