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   [Indepth interview]A positive vision for education
   4483    2008-05-19
Source : Joongang Daily

May 14, 2008

Kim Doh-yeon, the minister of Education, Science and Technology, is a tall man at 1.9 meters (6 feet 2 inches).
When Kim was appointed to the cabinet post two months ago he jokingly said he must have been chosen so he could work with a vision that extends far into the future, aided by his height.
However, since he took office, Kim has rarely voiced his views in public.
Some people had expressed concern about putting Kim, formerly an engineering professor at Seoul National University, in charge of the nation’s top policy making body for education.
Kim granted his first media interview to the JoongAng Ilbo late last month. Over nearly two hours from half past seven in the morning, the minister expressed his views on the Lee Myung-bak administration’s intentions in deciding to reduce government intervention in education.

Q. It’s been two months since you became education minister. Your work must be very different from what you used to do, teaching classes.
A.When I was teaching, I went to school very early. But back then when I was tired I took naps. Now I can’t. As two months have gone by I am getting used to it physically but mentally, I’m still working on it.

The new administration’s education reform started with the merging of the education ministry and the ministry of science and technology. Different measures have been introduced since. What are your ideas about reforming Korean education?
I do not think that words like “reform” or “innovation” are appropriate when addressing education problems. Education isn’t something that can be changed overnight. I wish such words would not be used when addressing issues in education.
Education is something that should gradually change and gradually reform. The ministry is doing its best to speed up the changes. What we want is to implement diversity.
There has been opposition since the government announced the abolition of various regulations on April 15. Chung Jin-hwa, head of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union, has gone on a hunger strike to oppose the government’s move.
If you hold down a spring really tightly and then let it go, you can’t tell which direction the spring will go because of the strong resistance. I think the current situation is very similar. Issues like additional instruction outside of regular school classes should be decided by the schools themselves, not by city or provincial governments nor the education offices.
Larger side-effects can occur if the central government has to take measures on every little issue.
Opponents argue that an education policy that is completely centered on competition will be stressful for students and parents.
In our society, students and parents have already been in fierce competition and they still are. However, there has been no competition among schools or even among teachers to teach students well.
With this policy, if schools and teachers compete against one another, the stress that the students and parents feel will be reduced.
It won’t be easy but it is necessary.

President Lee Myung-bak said that enactment of a law making teacher evaluations mandatory can no longer be postponed. Some argue that teacher evaluations should be part of the personnel management system. What do you think?
The development of any group can only happen with proper evaluation. Without evaluation, it is not easy to develop. A trial run on teacher evaluations was conducted in 669 schools this year.
The evaluation will not be directly connected to personnel management. A partial release to the public of the results of that evaluation would move the policy a step forward.

How are the results of the evaluation disclosed?
Currently only the person being evaluated receives the evaluation results. Although the individual evaluation of each teacher cannot be disclosed, one can check the averages at each school.
We are considering including the extent of disclosure of teachers’ evaluation results in the special legislation on disclosing information of education-related institutions that will be implemented soon.

Teachers will likely resist that.
There could be strong resistance. But already universities are publicly disclosing evaluations on professors. Evaluations of elementary, middle and high school teachers should be open to the public.
It is not our purpose to hamper teachers with a bad evaluation. We want to give appropriate evaluations to teachers who are trying hard to teach students and give them the recognition that they deserve.
In every policy there are pros and cons. There is no end when you focus on the negative aspects.
The strengthening of English education has been an issue even before the Lee Myung-bak transition team spotlighted it.
Although English education is important, I think it has become too big of an issue. The government’s intention is to enable people to carry out English conversations easily by the time they complete mandatory public education.
Speaking English well isn’t easy. The government policy is not to put an absolute emphasis on English but to change English education here so it focuses on listening and speaking.

Kim Doh-yeon, 56, became a Seoul National University professor in 1982. He has published more than 250 scholarly papers in many international journals.
He served as the dean of the university’s engineering department for two years, from September 2005 to 2007. During his time as dean, Kim experimented with many changes, including strengthening guarantees on professors’ tenure and posting of professors’ detailed teaching programs on the Internet.
He once criticized Korean universities’ organizational structures, saying that the egalitarianism dominating Korean society was driving Korean talent overseas.

Link : http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2889752
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