By Kang Shin-who
The nation’s progressive union of teachers is attempting to shake off its radical image as part of efforts to block a further drain of members.
The Korean Teachers & Education Workers’ Union (KTU) has suffered a steady decrease in members, with the total number falling by more than 10,000 over the last four years to some 83,000 this year.
During its council meeting in North Jeolla Province Wednesday, the leaders of the group agreed to take steps to draw back stronger support from students and parents.
Among the measures they are considering are adapting themselves to a changing education environment and modifying their once militant strategies.
``We will suggest reasonable alternatives rather than radically opposing government policy. We will restrain from staging protest rallies and strikes to shake off our trouble-maker image,’’ KTU spokesman Hyun In-cheol told The Korea Times over the phone.
Even so, it will be very difficult not to oppose the educational policies of Lee Myung-bak’s administration. The union is opposing key education policies that the new government is pursuing. Three key areas are the government’s move to reform English education, allowing universities to run their own tests for admissions and ranking high schools.
It will collect opinions from members during a national conference this May and discuss further how it will cope with educational changes they disagree with.
In addition, the progressive teachers’ group faces a fresh challenge from the New Right Teachers and Education Workers’ Union, which has recently been established as an alternative to the KTU.
The unions are expected to disagree on key issues, including the teacher evaluation system.
Among teachers’ groups, the Korea Federation of Teacher’s Associations has the largest membership with some 180,000, followed by KTU. But the newly-established union is expected to have more than 10,000 members this year.