Korea: Major Education Shakeup Looms Large

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Fri Jan 4 13:26:29 UTC 2008

   01-03-2008 17:44

Major Education Shakeup Looms Large

By Park Si-soo
Staff Reporter

About a month before President-elect Lee Myung-bak's inauguration, his
transition team had already dropped a bomb in the educational circle,
indicating a sweeping change to the nation's education landscape.
Uncertainties abound about how the changes will affect students
progress. Many parents and schoolteachers are already scratching their
heads, wondering how they should cope with the upcoming changes.  The
Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development suggested
Wednesday a series of drastic policies with regard to university
admission, reformation of the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT)
and deregulation of primary and secondary education.

If the proposals take effect as planned, the decision rights on
university admission policy, now under government control, will be
handed over to the Korean Council for University Education (KCUE). It
means universities will be virtually left to select students in the
way they see fit. Since 1982, KCUE has served as a representative of
universities in Korea. Currently, it has a total of 201 universities
as its members. The incoming administration will revamp primary and
secondary education systems. The education ministry has held a tight
grip on policies regarding elite high schools such as science and
foreign language high schools, alleging that they would exacerbate the
already-crumbled public education. But this approach is likely to be
changed completely since the next government plans to transfer the
administrative authority on special schools to regional education

Education experts and people concerned show mixed reactions over a
series of innovative agendas. Baik Sung-gi, 59, president of POSTECH,
said, ``It is a desirable decision. In addition, the new government
should come up with policies supporting the decisions to make them
work well.'' But some education administrators remain concerned over
the decisions, alleging giving too much power at once will cause
problems.  ``KCUE has served as a rubber stamp of the government. The
council needs to reshape itself to become an organization controlling
the hypersensitive college admission process,'' said Kim Young-sik,
administration head of KCUE.

A private high school teacher expressed concerns that Lee's reform
plan will negatively affect the public education that has been already
crumbling. ``Private cram schools will flourish, raising costs for
parents and further weakening public education.'' Sohn Byung-doo,
president of Sogang University in Seoul who will take office as
chairman of KCUE from April, said ``we welcome the ministry's
decision. It will serve as a steppingstone for Korean universities to
leap toward world class level in the years to come.'' The shakeup on
CSAT will have a huge impact on Korean education. President-elect Lee
has pledged a three-stage change in college admission: First, each
university will have discretion in weighing students' high school
records and the state-run College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT);
second, the number of CSAT subjects will be decreased from the current
seven to around five; and last, colleges will have full autonomy in
student recruitment.

pss at koreatimes.co.kr

-- http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2008/01/117_16659.html
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