“Our daughters are not scapegoats for your daughters.” Angry mothers plastered the front gate of a high school in Gangnam district with protesting posters. The rally was gathered after an inspection found that a teaching director of this school reviewed the test papers that his twin daughters would take before the test, each of whom got the best grades in school, at the liberal arts and the natural science departments, respectively. Worried that the protest might interrupt the class of their daughters, the participants maintained silence instead of chanting their grievances. While a further police investigation is waiting, the ethics of our public education system is practically facing a death penalty regardless of the results of probes.
If the investigation finds the leak of test to be true, it will shake the very foundation of our public education. The high school in question has sent dozens of students to the top universities in Korea every year. And a foul play was made in this long-standing prestigious school, so the scale of ripple effects will be much more significant compared to similar precedents. Indeed, many parents and students are already seeking refuge in hakwon, private teaching institutions typically found in Korea, out of their distrust in school, and if the teachers’ ethics at public schools, the last resort of our public education, is eroded, our schools will turn into a hell. A barrage of demands would be made, calling for the setting and distributing exam papers in the presence of police and installing surveillance cameras at every classroom. The current college admission system that takes into account high school records will also be engulfed in trouble.
Betrayals on the part of teachers also leave a bitter taste. The teaching director gave an excuse that his daughters’ grade improved after going to a private academic institution. The institutions expressed skepticism about the possibility of the two female students in question getting the top grade at school, fueling suspicion about the case that has been hushed for a while. When I first began to cover education, I interviewed moms in Gangnam districts who are not sending their kids to private academic institutions. The reports were never published. Even teachers at public schools were sending their children to hakwons. “Prior learning has become a norm, and the public education is collapsing,” so testified some of the teachers that I interviewed.
Even if the investigation finds the teaching director not guilty, it would be nearly impossible for his daughters to lead a normal life at school. Their grades skyrocketed, but they are getting flailed instead of a pat on the back. The daughters have been scapegoated by the brutal system of academic records in high school where one would even go so far as to steal friends’ notebooks. Lamentable it is indeed. Who is to blame? Is it the parents who pushed their children? Is it the teachers who didn’t push hard enough? Or is it the distorted structure of our public education system? Perhaps, all three are the “accomplices” in the latest test leakage scandal.
Kyung-Im Woo firstname.lastname@example.org