[EDITORIALS]Schools need diversityThe ground-breaking ceremony for the New Songdo City International School was held within the Incheon Free Economic Trade Zone yesterday. It is the first foreign school to be established under a special regulation the Education Ministry made regarding the foundation of foreign education institutes in free economic trade zones and in Jeju Free International City.
Being built on investments from both Korean and foreign private firms, the school will open in 2008 and be run in a Western manner by an American school foundation. The school year will begin in September, and the division of grades will also be different from that of Korea ― kindergarten is one year, followed by five years of elementary school, three years of middle high school and four years of high school.
This school is being built for the education of the children of foreigners who work in Korea. However, to be prepared against a possible lack of foreign students, the school will allow up to 30 percent of the entire student population to be Korean for the first five years. After that, the school will comprise up to 10 percent Korean students. Unlike existing foreign schools, students at the international school will only have to take language and social studies courses in order to be acknowledged academically in Korea. It is a school with an entirely new structure. Since Busan-Jinhae and Gwangywang are also free economic zones, we will probably see more of these schools in the future.
The international school will bring changes to the unilateral Korean school system as well. It is contradictory that the Education Ministry restricts Korean schools under the pretext of standardization, while allowing the establishment of the international school at Songdo. It is pathetic that the ministry puts off the enforcement of a bill that would allow independent private schools just because the ruling party and the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union opposed the bill, saying that the schools are aristocratic because their tuition would be about three times higher than that of regular schools. The tuition at the Songdo school will be about 20 million won ($20,400) a year, similar to that of prestigious private schools in the United States. It is contradictory that the ministry allows Koreans to go to this kind of school and yet restricts independent private high schools.
The ministry must take this opportunity to open up the education market and allow diverse schools to be established to meet diverse needs.