[EDITORIALS]Standardized education gets F

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[EDITORIALS]Standardized education gets F

An assessment of academic achievement at the nation’s elementary, middle and high schools revealed that performance differed by schools and by districts. In Seoul, where high schools operate under a standardized educational system, high schools in Gangnam, or southern Seoul, performed better than the schools in Gangbuk, or northern Seoul.
What this means is that the government’s long-held standardization of educational policy has failed. A standardized educational curriculum was adopted in 1974 to cool the fever for private tutoring and to close the academic gap among schools.
But what is our reality, 30 years later? Schools’ academic performances swing along a wide pendulum, and money that was poured into private tutoring last year totaled 13.6 trillion won, a huge increase from the 280 billion won that parents spent in 1977. The standardized curriculum has been blamed for South Korean students’ lagging performance in international competitions.
The problem is that people have different abilities and talents, but our education won’t acknowledge that.
Poor performance by middle and high school students will lead to poorly performing collegians, which inevitably weakens national competitiveness. While South Korea ranks fifth in completion of higher education, it is 59th in terms of whether colleges meet economic society’s demands.
Thus, it is only natural that colleges would want to recruit the best students. It is also only natural for the colleges to argue that the schools’ different academic levels should be factored into their admission processes. The government should give total autonomy to colleges in assessing not only students but also high schools.
The government’s task is laid out clearly. It must take complementary measures to rectify the demerits of the standardized education system, which has dragged down the general educational level here for three decades.
As we have repeatedly argued, educational policy should be about nurturing talents. We should adopt specialized education for the high-achievers and set up a system where students can choose classes according to their level.
Furthermore, specialized schools such as science and foreign languages, and private schools should be built. For communities of rural and low-income people, the government should increase financial assistance there.
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