[EDITORIALS]Hopes for education minister

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[EDITORIALS]Hopes for education minister

Expectations are high for Ahn Byung-young, the new education minister. Eight years ago, when he held the same post in the Kim Young-sam administration, he promoted bold reforms.
He resumes the post at a time when there is a mountain of work to do. He must straighten out the erroneous policy steps that his predecessor undertook, which only deepened the conflict and confrontation among different groups in the education sector.
The new deputy prime minster for education must accelerate the upgrading of the education system’s competitiveness. He has shown that he grasps this urgent task. Mr. Ahn pledged to bring back a competitive and elitist education system.
The trend in education internationally is to reject egalitarianism and to emphasize competitiveness and efficiency. For Korea to adhere to a broad egalitarian public education system that was put in place three decades ago is forsaking international competitiveness. What is the result? One out of 10 students in the 10th grade fails to meet the required minimum academic standard.
It is unrealistic to expect students to be highly motivated when those of differing abilities are placed together in one classroom. With the College Scholastic Ability Test varying in difficulty each year, thus making it unpredictable, students, beginning at the primary school level, scurry to private educational institutes to become test machines while shunning the public school curriculum.
As long as we keep this unproductive and inefficient education system, we can expect Korea’s place in the world to diminish.
One way to correct the problem is to supplement the standardized system. The government should allow formerly private schools to be run as they were originally set up, and permit an increase in the number of specialized schools. The government should consider limiting the powers that municipal and provincial educational superintendents have in making such decisions. Public schools should rigorously evaluate students’ and teachers’ performance, and bad ones should be closed.
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