In Education, a Title Is Not Enough

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In Education, a Title Is Not Enough

The government reorganized the Ministry of Education into the Ministry of Education and Human Resources and raised the status of its minister by appointing him to the additional office of deputy prime minister. This reorganiza tion has great significance in many ways and although it may be an afterthought, we welcome it. But there are great concerns on whether the objective of the reor ganization will be fully realized. First of all, these measures may show the government''s recognition of the importance of education and the development and effective management of human resources. Entrusting the overall development and manage ment of human resources to the Education Ministry also stresses the importance of education for national development.

Major countries around the world are reforming their educa tion systems because education is the primary means of enhancing national competitiveness. In the United States, President Reagan started this trend, and his successor, the first President Bush, liked to call himself the education president. The new President Bush made education reform a focus of his election campaign and has begun his administration in a similar vein. His first legislative proposals to Congress included a package of seven bills on educa tion reform.

Prime Minister Blair of Great Britain said education is his most important policy and also his sec ond and third most important poli cies. Of course, budget funds to support these proposals are also being provided in these countries. In Korea, President Kim Dae jung pledged to expand the educa tion budget to 6 percent of Gross National Product, but this year only 4.53 percent was allocated. The education budget did increase 19.2 percent over last year, a greater increase than that of the total budget, 7 percent. It is also good that the president shows a willingness to expand investment in education by ordering nation wide compulsory free middle school education by 2004.

The government must know that strengthening support for edu cation and human resource devel opment cannot be achieved by merely raising the status of the minister or the ministry''s ranking. But concerns also have been raised that the ministry''s wider focus on human resources in general may in fact lead to less attention on edu cation. To make the best use of limit ed resources, the government should follow through on its reor ganization by expanding its invest ment in education and human resources development in general and establishing an effective over sight system to ensure that the money is being well spent.

The deputy prime minister for education should supervise human resource development policies in general, and exercise vigorously his powers as head of the Human Resources Development Council, which consists of other ministers and chief secretaries. There have been many exam ples in the past of overlapping functions and conflicts between ministries with responsibilities for education and human resource development. Rivalry among bureaucrats has resulted in disso nance and neglect instead of coop eration. If the deputy prime minis ter coordinates policies between these ministries, better working relations will soon be established. But there are doubts about how efficiently the deputy prime minis ter will be able to establish policies and coordinate them.

In the past the economic deputy prime minister, because he was concurrently the minister of the Economic Planning Board, had strong coordination powers because he had the authority to allocate budgets. In order for the deputy prime minister for education to carry out his coordination functions, he must of course have substantive authority. First of all, the deputy prime minister should exercise his right to advise on desirable poli cies by examining the procedures that other ministries use to develop related policies. Also, the Human Resources Development Council should review all proposals related to human resources before they are presented to a cabinet meeting for final approval.

Budget allocations and other revenue sources associated with human resource development should also be supervised by the Human Resources Development Council. Education and the develop ment of human resources are long term policies, and they must be promoted consistently. In the past, education policies were criticized because they were shortterm, lacking underlying principles. Toofrequent changes of ministers of education are somewhat to blame.

It is deplorable that this admin istration alone has appointed no less than six education ministers in three years. The frequent change of ministers should be ended in order to maintain consistency in education and in the development of human resource policies and to promote professionalism in the administration of education. In the United States, the secre tary of education in the Clinton administration, Richard Riley, stayed in office for eight full years; that should be a lesson for the Korean government.
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