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The teacher mess

Aug 28,2017
The dispute over public school teaching positions has intensified. University students aspiring to be teachers have been demonstrating in protest of a government decision to sharply reduce the quota for teaching positions at elementary schools.

Another group preparing for teaching jobs at secondary schools and an association representing temporary teachers had separate rallies in downtown Seoul over the weekend.

Students protested the government’s plan to upgrade temporary teachers and give them salaried positions as that would reduce the number of new positions. On the other side, temps protested for better job security for 46,000 teaching on a casual or temporary basis. The confusion is entirely the fault of the education ministry. It has been negligent in controlling the quota with anything close to a long-term outlook of classroom supply and demand.

It habitually and randomly set annual quotas upon political decisions without regards to classroom conditions and hired teachers on a temporary basis to save its budget.

The ministry is equally incompetent in dealing with the consequences of its policy waffling. It merely announced it would be coming up with measures next month to meet President Moon Jae-in’s promise of upgrading the status of temporary teachers.
Few would disagree with improving the lot of temporary teachers. Most are as good as full-time teachers. But economic realities can’t be ignored.

About 50,000 people prepare for public school recruitment exams every year. Only one out of ten gets a position. If all of them are given permanent jobs, it goes against the idea of fair competition. Under the education public employee law, new hires must be recruited through public procedures.

Education minister Kim Sang-kon must personally clarify the government’s position. The ministry must be clear about its position on this year’s recruitment and its plans for temporary workers.

It also needs to come up with a long-term outline to improve the grooming and training system for teachers. The ministry is useless if it cannot ensure the quality of public school teachers.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 28, Page 34