Korea: Private School Act amendment may encourage corruption
EI has written to H.E. Roh Moo-hyun, President of the Republic of Korea, urging the Korean government to withdraw the re-amended Private School Act in the forthcoming session of the National Assembly.
The latest amendment to the legislation, on July 3rd, brought to an end the stipulation for a percentage of a private school’s board to be composed of independent persons.
While the intention of the Private School Act was to boost transparency in school management, following the amendment such transparency will be reduced. There are concerns that the amendment may even foster corruption.
Additionally, EI expresses the concern of the international teaching community with the repeated dismissal of teachers for exercising their democratic right to engage in the political process and to speak out on social issues.
Won Young-Man, Chang Hae-Ok, and Cho Hee-Ju were all dismissed within the past year. EI had written to the Korean government in February of this year, expressing concern about the government's decision to punish teachers who had protested the imposition of the teacher evaluation system. When the government failed to respond, EI’s Korean affiliate, the KTU, submitted a formal complaint to the International Labour Organization.
Since 2002 the Korean Ministry of Education has refused the right to collective bargaining. The Convention of the International Labour Organization on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining has not yet been ratified by the country.
The content of Education International’s letter to the President of the Republic of Korea is available below:
H.E. Mr. Roh Moo-hyun President of the Republic of Korea Presidential House Chongwadae Seoul Korea Fax: +82 2 770 4931
Brussels, 12 September 2007
Dear Mr President,
I am writing to you on behalf of Education International to express the concern of the international teaching community with issues that need to be addressed in the best interest of Korean education, namely, the lack of transparency in private schools and the collective bargaining rights of teachers.
As a global union organisation of teachers and education workers, Education International advocates tirelessly and vigorously for governments in all countries to fulfil the obligation of the state in providing access for all students to quality publicly funded education.
Public education is indeed the cornerstone of a democratic society and investment in the future of any society through enabling the development of citizenship and citizens to participate fully in the social, economical and political life of the country. Such public education system must of course be organised and managed according to the highest standards. One important standard is administrative and financial transparency.
Education International applauds the revision of the law in 2005 which required the introduction of independent “outsiders” into the school boards of private schools, as a means of promoting transparency, but expresses great concern about the recent amendment to this law, on July 3,2007, that could have the effect of reducing such transparency and, in fact, could even foster corruption. Taking into account the fact that private schools in Korea rely heavily on public taxes, it is essential that a transparent management system be put in place. Therefore, to safeguard transparency in school management, the international teaching community requests that the re-amended private school law be withdrawn in the forthcoming general session of the National Assembly, to be held during the month of September.
The second point of concern we wish to draw attention to is the continued abrogation of bargaining rights for Korean teachers. Education International has been informed by our affiliate, the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union, KTU, that since 2002 the Ministry of Education has refused to collective bargaining. As the Global Union Federation representing teachers and education workers, we regret the fact that the Convention of the International Labour Organization on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining has not yet been ratified by the Republic of Korea. Teachers are an important partner in the education endeavour and they must be allowed to participate fully in dialogue and to be supported by good governance, the hallmark of which is transparency.
Education workers should not be excepted from the right to sit at the bargaining table with the employer. In the spirit of ILO Convention 98, bargaining rights should be sheltered and must exist for all terms and conditions of employment. We would like to remind you that At the 299th session of the Governing Body on 15 June 2007, which discussed appeals of the Korean Public Employees’ Union, the International Labour Organization (ILO) recommended that the South Korean government withdraw limitations to collective bargaining.
For teachers to do their best work in the classrooms of the nation they need decent terms and conditions of employment and the right to negotiate those. Therefore, EI urges the Korean government to respect international standards and to amend the Special Law on Teacher’s Unions in the forthcoming general session of the National Assembly by withdrawing the limits on bargaining rights.
Finally, Education International holds as a basic right as citizens of a democratic nation the freedom of expression. Teachers all over the world are shocked and deeply disturbed by the repeated dismissal of teachers (i.e., Mr. Won Young-Man, Ms. Chang Hae-Ok, and Mr. Cho Hee-Ju, Ms. Cho Yon-Hee from 2006 to 2007) for exercising their democratic right to engage in the political process and to speak out on social issues. Teachers must be guaranteed the right as for any citizen to freedom of speech in the law and in practice. As South Korea moves toward presidential and general elections, teachers as citizens must be granted participation in the electoral process.
Considering the importance of the issues mentioned above, Education International will certainly appreciate your intervention and support in making sure that the re-amended Private School Law be withdrawn in the forthcoming session of the National Assembly; that Korean teachers are fully entitled, in law and practice, to the right to collective bargaining; and , last but not least, that Korean workers enjoy freedom of expression.
Fred Van Leeuwen General Secretary