Korea: Unacceptable Education Policy

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Tue Jun 27 12:59:41 UTC 2006

Hankooki.com > The Korea Times > Opinion

  Unacceptable Education Policy

The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development has unilaterally
announced that from 2008, foreign language high schools will be barred
from recruiting students from other cities and provinces. The announcement
doesnt make sense at all.  First, this incident makes me doubt if this
country whose Constitution stipulates that Korea shall be a democratic
republic is truly a democratic country or not. In a democratic society,
decisions are made through in-depth discussions by rational citizens.
However, the ministry unilaterally made such an important decision without
any process of pooling opinions from those affected. Maybe the ministry
wanted to avoid harsh criticism from the first place, since Koreans are
especially sensitive to education. The ministry's decision is tantamount
to denying citizens freedom of speech. Such oppression of criticism is not
something that can happen in a democracy but an autocracy.

The government also seems very eager to lower the quality of education.
Equally provided quality education would be very ideal, and of course,
preferable. However, the government's new policy is intended to deprive
students of the equal opportunity to receive quality education in schools.
The new policy will accelerate the inequality within foreign language high
schools. It will cause schools located in affluent districts to become
elite schools while those outside these wealthy villages will fall behind
further. For example, foreign language high schools outside Seoul can
maintain their reputations by accepting students from Seoul. However, from
2008, the gap between schools in Seoul and outside Seoul will widen. As a
side effect, it could motivate more parents to move to Seoul.

The ministry's announcement also shows the extent of whims on the part of
education authorities. About two years ago, the government encouraged the
establishment of foreign language high schools. As a result, new high
schools such as Hankuk Academy of Foreign Studies in Yongin opened with
newly constructed dormitories accommodating its first and second year
students. However, because of the government's policy change, many schools
will confront a lot of difficulties. To sum up, the ministry's new policy
contains many points that are hardly agreeable: lack of democratic
decision-making procedures, downward standardization of education,
increased inequality within foreign language high schools, inconsistency
in education policies and punitive motives.  This new policy clearly shows
the chronic problems of the education ministry and it is my hope as a high
school student that this bottleneck will be solved. If not, the students
will become scapegoats.

Jang Hye-won
Kwachon, Kyonggi Province


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