[EDITORIALS]A blue-collar quota?

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[EDITORIALS]A blue-collar quota?

The Uri Party announced that it would seek to impose on colleges and universities a 10-percent quota for admissions of vocational-school students. Currently, colleges can only choose to supplement their enrollment with students from vocational high schools, up to 3 percent of their normal enrollment.
Some parents first raised the idea when the party’s chairman, Chung Dong-young, recently visited a vocational high school. The idea then suddenly appeared as government policy, without any discussion with the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development. Ministry officials reportedly began to look into the matter only after the party made the announcement.
The plan is certainly controversial. Vocational high schools were originally established to train personnel to work in the industrial and technical areas of our economy. Despite their original objective, however, the percentage of students from the schools who continue their studies in two-year colleges and in universities has gone from 42 percent in 2000 to 67 percent last year.
If the government goes ahead with its plans to expand the current 3-percent ratio, it is clear that most students will head for college and that the original objective of the schools will be overshadowed. The proposed policy will also presage complaints from parents with students in academic high schools, as it will narrow the admissions gates at colleges. Nobody knows whether the nation’s universities will accept the new plan.
It seems that the Uri Party is deeply immersed in its political plans to bring the nation’s education system into its discussion about social polarization. Previously, Uri lawmakers stirred up conflict between the social classes with comments like, “It is incorrect for vocational high school students to have a lesser chance of success than students at leading high schools in the Gangnam area.” Now they’ve suddenly come up with an unrealistic policy.
Even if the leading party succeeds in winning the support of the parents of students at vocational high schools, who will take responsibility for the confusion that will follow? Why do they think the Korean Federation of Teachers’ Associations announced that it would work to protect the neutrality of education from politics, as guaranteed by the constitution?
Of course, it is desirable to care enough about the welfare of vocational school students to improve their institutions.
But thoughtless and irresponsible comments will only scar the hearts of students and worsen the social conflict. We must ask: Is it so difficult for this administration to develop realistic policies for the students?
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