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Seoul switches evaluation system for principals

Seoul’s education office plans to completely revamp the principal evaluation system, hoping that straightening out principals will lead to positive changes in schools.

Officials said Monday that, once passed through review, headmasters will undergo management skill evaluations starting this school semester, monitoring their schools’ curriculum and its results, as well as 13 other criteria.

A good proportion of the evaluation will lie on the school’s ability to revitalize the literary arts in their education, academic field trips and other areas deemed academically innovative by Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education superintendent Kwak No-hyun.

The evaluation will also look at the percentage of school sports club participants, the number of students that participate in each club and their performance in competitions, as part of efforts to promote healthy bodies and minds.

Principals will also be evaluated by their faculties’ use of punishment, in light of the ban on corporal punishment which has been a hot topic throughout 2010. Seoul is responding to worries that teachers may overuse alternative forms of punishment or neglect problematic students altogether.

Also, the Seoul Education Office, in partnership with a civic group, agreed to have more school information released to the public, an effort to stop corruption. The cost of construction projects, field trip expenses and the cost of school meals, areas in which corruption has been defected, will be available online or through a smartphone app.

Seoul decided to switch to quantitative assessments after deeming that 2010’s qualitative assessments had failed to diffuse the overheated competition between schools by eliminating the excessive focus on academic performance.

According to an education official, last year’s evaluations were inadequate in objectivity, appropriateness and fairness.

“In order for schools to change the principal must take the lead,” according to the official.

By Robert Lee (