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   Int'l teachers federation blasts Korean government
   3973    2009-03-13
Source : Korea Herald

March 12, 2009

Chief of the world's largest federation of teachers' organizations said yesterday that the recent dismissal of teachers in Korea who allowed students to skip standardized tests was outrageous.

"We respect the right of governments to develop and pursue education reform plans, but we cannot accept teachers' organizations not being consulted on those plans, let alone their members being fired for exercising their professional freedom," Fred Van Leeuwen, general secretary of the Education International, told reporters here.

"It is impossible for any government to achieve their educational goals while treating their teaching profession the way the Korean government does - restricting their professional freedoms, denying their collective bargaining rights, thwarting social dialogue, dismissing and persecuting educators."

Twelve members of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers' Union were sacked late last year for giving students a choice not to take the nationwide standardized tests.

"By dismissing the teachers, the South Korean government has seriously curtailed the professional freedom of teachers, which is guaranteed by the International Labor Organization and UNESCO's recommendation," Leeuwen said.

The Korean government is not acting in accordance with a number of international standards in terms of treating the teaching profession, according to the Dutch secretary general.

For example, Korea is the only country in the democratic world where teachers are not allowed to engage in political activities, he said.

Members of the KTU were arrested and detained in December on charges of violating the law on political funds because they collected funds to support a candidate in the Seoul City superintendent election.

The Education Ministry also unilaterally nullified the collective bargaining agreement with teachers' trade unions in November last year.

"The EI has no choice but to file formal complaints with the ILO and UNESCO against the Korean government. We will also alert the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development of the somewhat worrisome situations we saw here," Leeuwen said.

Leeuwen also met with Korean lawmakers on the National Assembly's education committee and leaders of teachers' groups during his three-day visit to Seoul.

"I was told by a ruling party representative that the dismissal of teachers was not a matter of the national government because they were fired by provincial authorities, but I think an infringement of international standards should involve the responsibility of the national government," he said.

The EI has a membership of 401 organizations including the KTU and the Korean Federation of Teachers' Associations across 172 countries. It represents over 29 million education personnel from pre-school to university.

"It was a pity the education minister couldn't meet us, but I hope to talk to him in the next UNESCO or OECD meeting."

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