[EDITORIALS]Ministry has forsaken dutyEducation Minister Kim Jin-pyo called the revision of the Private School Act a “minimum safety measure” for the democratic and transparent management of private schools. The minister also claimed that if private schools fully understood the act, they would not reject the revision through such drastic measures as walkouts. Despite the minister’s insistence, the private schools have vowed to continue their protest against the revision.
The private schools are of the opinion that the new open board system will encroach on the autonomy of school management. They have said they will challenge the act’s legitimacy at the Constitutional Court and stop enrolling new students, or even close down schools. Some religious groups have also renounced the revision, calling it a “death sentence” for private schools and have even called for the Roh Moo-hyun administration to step-down. Should the situation worsen, the entire education system could fall into chaos.
The Education Ministry holds the biggest responsibility for aggravating the situation. The revision was introduced in the National Assembly last October by the Uri Party. Since then, private school groups have on numerous occasions held protests and turned in petitions to argue the wrongfulness of the bill. Yet the ministry showed almost no effort to include the voice of private schools in the legislation or any other attempts to respect the schools’ opinions. The government agency that should best understand the private schools has forsaken its duty. We ask whether the education minister, who is also a governing party legislator, has not put his political agenda ahead of his responsibility for the future of the education system and the morale of the private schools.
The ministry, which has been so quiet until now, has warned private schools that they will be disciplined severely in case of any illegal collective action. The conflict over the act revision has just begun. The conflict between schools and the government should in no case infringe on students’ rights to learn and to attend class. The Education Ministry should fully respect the opinion of the private schools in its enforcement of the new law. It should provide a safety measure so that education-related labor unions, such as the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union which first advocated the open board system, will not interfere in the management of private schools.
While outsiders might be appointed to school boards to help prevent corruption, they should not take over management and personnel affairs decisions as well.