A sinking systemYesterday, the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development announced a new policy designed to lower the amount parents have to spend on private tutoring for their children. The initiative includes many measures, but none seems likely to be effective. The private tutoring business is booming because of the government’s overall objective of imposing an egalitarian education system. It’s beyond absurd that the government avoids this issue while presenting temporary measures that do not address the central problem. They are like the sailors on the Titanic who responded, initially, to the ship’s ultimately fatal collision with an iceberg by re-arranging the deckchairs.
And they have made the same mistake before. Three years ago, the education ministry released a similar policy to control private tutoring, but the industry prospered like never before.
The education system would be fine if left to its own devices, but the Education Ministry has also meddled in the college entrance system. Thus, students and parents do not want to buy the system the ministry is selling and, instead, they turn to the private sector. If the ministry was a business its incompetence would force it out of business but, alas, as government employees those who run our failing education system have jobs for life. The government says the 2008 university entrance system was designed to reduce private tutoring, but the reality has been the opposite. Many people say the university exams are now a combination of three suicidal tests ― the college entrance test, transcripts from high school and an essay. The weight given to each factor has been left to each university to decide, and many say they will only consider test scores when selecting half the students for regular recruitment, a move welcomed by parents and students.
Kim Shin-il, the education minister, claims special high schools are the root cause of excessive private tutoring because students who hope to enter them seek private help. His solution is to scrap the titles of these schools. Again, the root of the problem has been ignored. Special high schools have become popular, and many local education offices plan more despite Mr. Kim’s opposition, because of the government’s insistence on an egalitarian education system. The private tutoring business prospers because the government offers an inadequate supply of good education at a time when demand is rising. That’s what happens when something as vital as education is left in the hands of bureaucrats and politicians, instead of private enterprise.