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[EDITORIAL] Hands Off Private Schools

Feb 14,2001
The Millennium Democratic Party convened a committee Tuesday, to debate three revised bills related to education reform, including the Private School Act, to be submitted to the National Assembly's extraordinary session. The amendment includes restoring the authority to hire and fire teachers, which is currently held by the board of directors, to the head of a school. The committee also extended the period of suspension for members of the board dismissed for wrong-doing two years to five years. In addition, committee members decided that one of the two school inspectors has to be a certified public accountant or an accounting specialist recommended by the school steering committee if the audit is on elementary, middle and high schools. In the case of colleges, a panel of professors will be in charge of recommending an accounting expert.

The Millennium Democratic Party said the amendments are part of an effort to enhance democracy, transparency and public-mindedness in managing private schools. But private schools are balking at the move, claiming that it is a bid by the government to control them because of irregularities found in only a handful of schools. The private schools claim the amendments buck the global trend. The Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union and about 30 civic groups have given high marks to some areas of the ruling party's proposal, but they are calling for the introduction of a public directors' system.

The revision should be made in such a way as to recognize the roles and contributions of the school founders and curb their dictatorial and corrupt management. If the founders are barred from managing their schools after pouring in huge amounts of money, who will be interested in founding a school? Stripping them of their authority to hire and fire teachers is not a solution. The founders' management rights should be respected, but irregularities should be addressed if found. To enhance private schools' competitiveness, their autonomy and independence should be expanded, not curtailed.

In Korea, private schools account for 85 percent of colleges and 40 percent of middle and high schools. If private schools are repressed, the negative impact would be far-reaching.


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