Korea: Wrong Priorities Education Policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Tue Oct 30 14:16:13 UTC 2007

Wrong Priorities Education Policy

The Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development announced on
Monday what it called a plan to "normalize" special-purpose high
schools. Regarding controversial educational issues such as
transforming foreign-language high schools into vocational training
schools, the ministry said it would gather a wide range of opinions by
June and reach a decision. In other words, the ministry plans to hand
over the matter to the next administration. That is a cop-out if you
consider the massive offensive the ministry staged last month by
designating its own research center to question the necessity of
foreign-language high schools. Mind you, it was absurd for an
administration with only four months left to go to try to close down
foreign-language high schools in the first place.

There are 29 foreign-language high schools out of a total of 2,218
high schools across the country. That¡¯s just 1.3 percent of the
total. If you include science high schools (19) and international high
schools (two), the proportion goes up to 2.25 percent. In terms of the
number of students, there are 28,150 students attending foreign
language, science and international high schools in Korea, accounting
for just 1.53 percent of the total 1.84 million high school students
in the country.

But over the last five years of its term, the Roh Moo-hyun
administration¡¯s educational policy has been focused only on
foreign-language and special-purpose high schools. Whenever they had
the chance, the president and the education minister criticized
foreign-language high schools as being a threat to the very foundation
of the education system. The so-called educational policies the Roh
administration came out with curtailed the amount of financial support
foreign-language high schools could receive, stripped municipal and
provincial education authorities of the power to authorize new
foreign-language high schools and gave it to the education ministry,
and sought to put students from such schools at a disadvantage in
terms of gaining admission to universities.

So, did the popularity of foreign language high schools drop all
across the nation? Far from it. At the end of the special selection
process for entrance to foreign-language high schools, the competition
rate for entrance in Seoul rose to 9.2:1, from 8.4:1 last year. And
the competition rate for entrance into foreign language-high schools
in the Gyeonggi area rose to 8.6:1 from 5.8:1.

The basic problem facing Korea¡¯s education system is the quality of
public education. If the quality of public education improves, most of
the problems facing junior and senior high schools will be solved.
What needs to be done is to fix an education system where the top 20
percent of students in terms of grades doze off in class because
they¡¯ve already learned the material in private cram schools, while
the lower 40 percent fall asleep because they don¡¯t understand it. If
the quality of education improves at regular high schools, the number
of students trying to go to foreign language high schools will
naturally dwindle. But this administration feels that raising the
quality of education at ordinary public schools, which 98.5 percent of
Korean high school students attend, is not their concern. They believe
that ordinary public schools will do fine if only foreign-language or
science high schools are closed down. The government¡¯s education
policy can be summed up as subjecting all students to the same, l
ow-quality education.

The education ministry must shift its policy focus from clamping down
on foreign-language high schools to saving public education. The
government must exert all of its efforts to revive the quality of
education in ordinary public schools, which 98.5 percent of Korean
students are thrown into, while the government remains disinterested.
The government must act to improve the abilities of these students and
to help them realize their dreams. There needs to be only one
department within the education ministry handling special-purpose high
schools, rather than the entire ministry seeking to bring them down.

url: http://english.chosun.com/w21data/html/news/200710/200710300027.html


N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who
disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman, Moderator)

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list