[EDITORIALS]A lesson on school reformAfter an intense search, the position of education minister has finally been filled. The public will have high expectations about the new minister, Yoon Deok-hong, as much as they are wary. People expect the new education minister, who also holds the title of deputy prime minister, to solve the problems of the education system. But they are concerned whether he can bridge the gap in public opinion and bring together the factions in the education community.
We are particularly concerned about his policy to continue the standardization of secondary education because that means he will leave intact the biggest ailment in Korea’s education system. The degradation of scholastic ability caused by standardized secondary education has reached a crisis level, as demonstrated by the fact that one out of seven freshmen of science and engineering departments at Seoul National University, the country’s most prestigious institution of higher education, failed the mathematics test. Universities cannot produce the skilled manpower that society needs, and that leads to an anemic national competitiveness.
The new education minister should draw up bold measures to break the downward equalization of education by allowing more independent private schools and reviving high-school entrance examinations.
The education minister should also do his best to heal the education community, which is divided into the conservatives and the progressives. If he pushes reform that favors one side, the education community will be stricken with distrust and confrontation.
Mr. Yoon mentioned his ideas for improving the university entrance system, reducing the burden of private-education costs and nurturing regionally-based universities. Considering that he is a former high-school teacher, a junior college professor and the president of a local university, it is understandable that he is highly ambitious about reform. But he should remember that he cannot solve everything at one fell swoop. It is imperative that he should listen to the voices of educators and encourage them to participate in his reform plans.