No classes today as middle school students are taking another round of standardized tests. You'll remember a couple of months ago some teachers with the Korea Teachers and Education Workers' Union allowed their elementary school students to cheat on the exam or to abstain by taking field trips, both measures taken to protest what is considered superfluous testing and to demonstrate how unnecessary the exams are. The union said in October:
"The uniform test is an act of suppression against students' human rights, and ranks students and schools into a hierarchy based on their scores," the teachers' union said in the statement.
Seven teachers were fired for undermining the exams, including the man pictured above, who continues to hold class outside the school in front of a police barricade. Here are a few more pictures of the events outside his school yesterday. Students are holding banners that say having police outside makes for a scary school. Even more scary is teachers manipulating students for their own political ends.
That's in the news because today is the middle school version of the standardized tests (일제고사), which will evaluate schools' performance. Some 1.35 million students will take it today. People are right to be upset about them, considering students finished their three-day tests two weeks ago, and of course don't care about these. In fact, having tests all morning interferes with our school festival preparations. From the Korea Times:
Progressive educators and parents groups are also increasing calls for the government to stop the ``standardized test'' for elementary and middle school students and reinstate the dismissed teachers.
Professors' union groups also joined the campaign to stop the test. They contended that educational motivation through competition is more than enough and many students have already been suffering from study pressure during a media conference held Monday in front of Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.
``The state-run test will deteriorate the situation at elementary and secondary schools. The uniform test will rank schools by scores and only boost unnecessary competition,'' the professors' group said in a statement.
Some 20 other civic and womens' groups have joined the protest against the government test, arguing the test will increase private education costs and trigger competition among children.
However, conservative groups called for the progressive groups to stop protesting. ``Avoiding the test is anti-educational. Their protest is confusing parents and students. Educational authorities should stand firmly and take stern actions against any illegal activities by the protesters,'' the Korean Federation of Teachers' Association said in its statement.
Union members have been protesting outside schools. Here's a middle school in Suwon:
I'm at a school with a big union presence, in a province with the highest percentage of KTUnionized teachers in the country. You can guess what the reaction to all this test business has been down here.