[EDITORIALS]Korea Is Flunking Education 101

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[EDITORIALS]Korea Is Flunking Education 101


The Korea Development Institute released a report yesterday, claiming that the main educational policies pursued by past governments as reform measures, including the ban on private tutoring, the abolition of college entrance examinations administered independently by each university and staff reforms, have failed to accomplish their goals due to procedural errors. The institute noted in its report on the expansion of the education budget and on measures to improve the education that the policies only brought about new regulations, contrary to their original design, and gave rise to a system centered around college admission and private tutoring. The institute claimed that the ban on private tutoring triggered more expensive private tutoring fees, that the abolition of the independent college entrance examinations robbed schools of their selection right, and that the lowering of standards for the standardized entrance examinations engendered a lower level of academic performance.

The analysis comes as a shock as it highlights a reality in which dissatisfaction with the nation's education opportunities is causing Koreans to emigrate en masse. At a fair on emigration and study abroad held at the COEX exhibition hall in Seoul's Samseong-dong on Sunday a crowd of 45,000 people swarmed the premises. Many of them were preparing to leave the country because they could no longer entrust their children to the existing education system. I would like to ask those responsible for educating our children what they have been doing.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the number of emigrants jumped by 20.9 percent from around 12,000 in 1999 to about 15,000 last year. The tally shows 2,874 elementary and secondary school students scurried abroad in between March and April of 2000 alone, 25 percent of the total number of students abroad in 1999. Ninety percent of those who choose emigration, which is surging by the year, depart to get a better education for their children, and this trend is likely to persist. According to a survey recently conducted by the institute, 88 percent of parents and 93 percent of education specialists responded that Korea faces an education crisis. Education policies that keep changing with the aim of winning votes and popularity, the ever more competitive college entrance procedures, excessive spending on private tutors and a public educational system in ruins from standardization to lower levels, have pushed parents and students away.

The brain exodus is a great loss for Korea, which depends on human resources. Therefore, the education ministry should embark on a comprehensive reform program that breaks from the existing framework. Unless we revamp the education system, nothing can be solved fundamentally. Normalization of public education is most urgent. We must change our way of thinking dramatically and reverse current standardization policies. Unless we introduce competition in schools, nothing can save the sinking education sector. Independent private high schools should be encouraged. Such policies as tuition differentiation and improvement in the college entrance system are equally important. The controversial College Scholastic Ability Test and the school grade system that is pushing schools to inflate grades should be changed. The right to select students should be returned to the individual universities. Unless we overhaul the philosophy and policies that pulled down the nation's education into ruins under the guise of standardization we cannot possibly rebuild the nation's system of learning.

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