[EDITORIALS]Educational U-turnsEducation Minister Kim Jin-pyo announced on Monday heavy restrictions on admissions to foreign-language high schools. From 2008, students can enter only language-based high schools located in the city or province where they live. Three or four years later, foreign-language high schools that do not focus on language classes will also only be allowed to recruit those students who live in their school districts. Middle school students who live in a district which does not have a foreign-language high school will not be able to enter such schools.
When designing education measures, there has been a practice of listening to public opinion by having public hearings in order to decrease confusion and chaos.
But Mr. Kim made the announcement abruptly, without having consulted local education authorities that supervise foreignlanguage high schools. Is it an exaggeration to say he exercised arbitrary power and ignored parents, students and schools?
Mr. Kim also announced the founding of new types of public schools. Some suspect that he decided to impose restrictions on foreign language schools in an effort to draw more students to the public schools. Others criticize this measure as having been made with the collusion of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union and the Blue House. The union has blindly stuck to an egalitarian education system and criticized the elite language schools, and the Blue House has shared the same view.
Until last year, Mr. Kim said he would increase the number of independent private schools. This year, he opposes the idea. And he now approaches it using a different standard. He does not show any consistency. New public schools have caused much controversy, and yet he plans to designate some schools to test this system beginning next year. Are students and education only laboratory rats on which to conduct tests? Restrictions on the elite schools are against the global trend, which emphasizes autonomy of education and the training of talented students to help them advance even further. The reason for the restrictions that Mr. Kim cited were that only a small number of language high school students choose to study languages in colleges. But that’s not always necessary. Students can change their majors as they wish at any time. Colleges are working toward allowing students to change their majors more freely.
In the May local elections, the people expressed their complaints about many measures advanced by the Roh administration. Education measures were no exception.
Since this administration took office, a growing number of parents have become disappointed with our education system and have decided to send their children abroad to study at an early age. We wonder how the education minister will take the responsibility for that situation.
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