중앙데일리

Foreign language high schools oppose political intervention

Nov 20,2009
Principals of foreign language high schools nationwide meet yesterday in Incheon. [YONHAP]
Principals of all 30 foreign language high schools nationwide released a joint statement yesterday opposing efforts by some politicians to abolish the special schools that are often blamed for Korea’s private education fever.

As an alternative to the abolishment, the principals pledged to do away with the English listening and oral exams from admission procedures and to introduce an admissions officer system, starting for those entering classes in 2011. “The plan to eliminate foreign language high schools is short-sighted,” said the statement from the principals that was released prior to a routine general meeting at Incheon Foreign Language High School. “We will pick [students] with methods that will help middle schools run their curriculums in a normal manner.”

Applicants will be initially filtered out by their middle school transcripts. In a second screening process, admissions officers will take into account an applicant’s middle school records, interviews and results of state-administered English communication ability certificate tests. Kang Sung-hwa, principal of Goyang Foreign Language High School, who headed the meeting, said at a press conference, “[With the revised process], middle schools will take greater responsibility for providing a better education to their students, while students will focus more on scores at school. Overall, public education will be strengthened.”

This is the first time that the association of all foreign language schools in Korea has taken collective action against some lawmakers who are trying to transform those schools into autonomous private high schools, which are set to open in March. The new type of schools will select students through a lottery system and impose expensive tuitions for specialized education.

Currently, foreign language high schools recruit students through a multi-stage admission procedure, consisting of written and oral exams developed by respective schools, English listening tests and interviews.

To get their children admitted to those schools - which often guarantee later admission to better universities and even long-term social success - Korean parents set aside a hefty portion of their household budgets for private education. The Lee Myung-bak administration, like previous ones, has sought to clamp down on overheated private education represented by tutors and hagwons.

Chung Doo-un, a lawmaker with the ruling Grand National Party and member of the Presidential Council for Future & Vision, has been spearheading the move to eliminate foreign language high schools. The Blue House said early this month the Education Ministry will unveil reform measures on the overall high school system on Dec. 10.

By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]







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