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Elite schools under fire

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Oct 27,2009
Should foreign language high schools be maintained or abolished?

This question cropped up once again after some lawmakers openly wondered about the value of such institutions, claiming they contribute heavily to skyrocketing costs tied to private education as families look to give their kids an edge ahead of college.

The debate intensified a few days ago, when Grand National Party member Chung Doo-un said, “Should [the government’s] education measures [and policies] be unsatisfactory, the [education] minister should resign.”

It is true that prominent political leaders and our society as a whole should discuss the problems surrounding Korea’s educational system today.

But there are valid concerns that the debate is going nowhere fast.

It isn’t right to discuss educational reform without taking into consideration the needs and wants of students and parents, who are having a tough time adapting because of constant changes to the country’s education policies whenever a new administration takes office.

We should in fact ensure that we’re focusing on the long term, not just immediate solutions.

Part of the problem today is that lawmakers within the Grand National Party have conflicting views, which makes them look irresponsible and imprudent. It also seems quite insincere. Take GNP lawmaker Chung, who was the first to introduce a bill that would abolish foreign language high schools. In three days, the draft bill he introduced was amended two times.

Of course, the education ministry must address this issue. But what Education Minister Ahn Byung-man said recently isn’t wrong: “Foreign language high schools aren’t a simple matter, so whatever path we take, we must tread carefully.”

Even though foreign language high schools did indeed help spur parents to invest more in private education, they have also played a role in nurturing elite students. That’s why instead of abolishing these schools, we should seek more rational and practical measures. Some changes should be made to the process for selecting students, but the spirit of foreign language high schools should be kept intact. Education issues should be addressed with logic, not with political populism.

The education ministry should ensure that this does not become an overly political situation. Instead, it must come up with fundamental solutions.



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