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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 16)

2017/06/16 07:01

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Abolishing elite high schools

President Moon Jae-in has pledged to get rid of elite private high schools to promote equality in education. In line with this, several education offices are moving toward turning foreign language, international and autonomous high schools in to regular schools.

Lee Jae-jung, head of the education office of Gyeonggi Province, announced the abolishment of two autonomous high schools and eight foreign language high schools earlier this week, saying, "policies that create a hierarchy among schools should be abandoned." Cho Hee-yeon, superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, is also expected to introduce measures to transform 23 autonomous high schools, six foreign language high schools and one international high school into regular schools at the end of the month.

The plan to abolish elite high schools is likely to gain momentum under the new education minister. President Moon has nominated Kim Sang-gon, a business professor who is known for his radical school reform initiatives, as deputy prime minister for social affairs and education minister. Kim will undergo a National Assembly confirmation hearing later this month.

The former superintendent of Gyeonggi Province education office is the architect of Moon's pledges for education reform. While serving as superintendent, he pushed for education policies aimed at promoting fair opportunities, such as a universal free school meal program.

It is important to promote fair education opportunities for all, but this is not the core problem of Korea's high school education. Getting rid of elite private high schools will do little to change the deep-rooted problems in our education, which is geared toward the university entrance examination.

The elite schools have been criticized for becoming more like hagwon, or cram schools, for top university admission. The purpose of these schools was to nurture competitiveness in academic and international skills, which are very important education objectives in responding to the globalized world. It is a rash move to get rid of them just to promote "equal education." Such a big policy change will lead to confusion on the part of students and parents. Education chiefs should not push to abandon elite schools hastily, but rather collect opinions on the abolishment and other ideas to fix problems in Korea's high school education.

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