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Special coordinators to seek out gifted students

Mar 20,2009
Instead of having students take exams in order to benefit from advanced education programs for the gifted, the government will take a more cautious and long-term approach, a high-ranking official said yesterday.

The ministry will train 3,000 coordinators responsible for the education of students showing excellent academic results in elementary schools. The so-called gifted coordinators will be sent to elementary schools nationwide to monitor high-potential students, working closely with their teachers. The coordinators will then pick final candidates who will be qualified to take exams for special education programs run by public and private universities and local governments.

The coordinators will be recruited from retired professors, teachers and researchers in mathematics and science, according to the government source.

Thus far, schools for the gifted have picked students through math and science tests. That method has been criticized for raising demand for excessive private supplementary instruction.

For example, Kim, an 11-year-old elementary school student, is tutored in mathematics three times a week at a cost of 500,000 won ($358) a month. By doing so, he aims to qualify for the exam to get into the “prodigy class” at a private institute nearby. The institute prepares students for the schools for the gifted.

Most of those private institutes for elementary school students teach high school mathematics, a very advanced curriculum. Kim’s 46-year-old mother said parents are greatly interested in schools for the gifted because they raise the chances for their kids to gain admission to international middle schools and, from there, into prestigious high schools such as foreign language high schools.

“Education programs for gifted students are turning into a stepping stone for getting into better schools, deviating widely from their original purpose,” said Song In-seop, professor of education at Sookmyung Women’s University. A survey of 624 students who entered three university-run schools for the gifted in Seoul showed that 65 percent lived in districts known for “heated private education” - Gangnam, Songpa, Yangcheon and Nowon.

Gifted student education experts say it isn’t right that certain talented students are artificially fostered through private education.

The Education Ministry also plans to raise the enrollment limit at science high schools and change 100 ordinary high schools into ones that prioritize mathematics and science. Science high schools have been reserved for geniuses. The new schools will be modeled after “super science high schools” in Japan, according to the ministry source.


By Jung Hyun-mok Staff Reporter [spring@joongang.co.kr]



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