[EDITORIALS]School plan makes sense

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[EDITORIALS]School plan makes sense

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education yesterday announced a plan to significantly extend the freedom that middle school students have to choose high schools, starting as early as 2010. Under the new system, students would be allowed to apply to up to four schools across the city. The plan is expected to create a uniform, egalitarian education system, better satisfy students and parents and eventually help develop the city’s high school education.
Currently, middle school students in Seoul can only go to high schools within the 11 school districts in which they live. Exceptions only exist for the central school district, to which students from outside the district can also apply. The system has weakened public education because students’ affection for their schools is low and the schools do not have to try to attract students. Due to the lack of exchanges of students between school districts, there appears to be an increasing gap between districts with advanced educational environments and districts without such benefits.
Seoul is already behind other cities. In the past several years, 25 other cities, including Busan, have witnessed the improvement of public education after local governments extended students’ freedom to choose their high schools. As schools are judged by students’ preference, more schools and teachers have been making efforts. There might be side-effects to the new system, such as some students who get allocated to a school far from home against their wishes. To minimize such problems, the education office should prepare thoroughly. But the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union and other groups oppose the plan for unjust reasons. If schools and teachers, without even trying to attract students, prevent students from choosing schools because of the fear they might be isolated, that is selfish.
The administration also has to increase students’ freedom to choose schools. But the administration is moving backward. The Education Ministry is trying to keep local education offices from limiting the number of specialized high schools and international middle schools, starting next year. The administration seriously infringes on the educational offices’ self-governance and ignores customers’ demands. The fact that many students apply for specialized schools suggests many people distrust the uniform, egalitarian education. Our public education will survive only when the Education Ministry puts an end to its absurd educational restrictions.
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