[Letter to the editor]Don’t take away education that worksI disagree with the government’s proposal to shut down foreign language high schools; as I will explain below, it is not only based on a misunderstanding of the education provided at those high schools, but is also a presumptuous encroachment by the government on personal autonomy.
The proposal hinges on the argument that foreign language high schools should solely be technical institutions for acquiring language skills, aimed only at producing translators and interpreters. It stands on a narrow view of language education ― that language skills are a requirement only for those specialized workers.
However, language training is the foundation for almost every discipline, especially considering that Korean is not an international currency of communication, unlike other languages such as English, Chinese and Spanish.
In my case, the training in English and Japanese languages I received in my high school, which also concentrated on foreign language education, had helped immensely to enable me to engage in interesting debates about Anglo-American scholarship, which is indispensable for my study.
Moreover, contrary to common belief, foreign language high schools do not forego students’ personal development because of the competition to get into universities. In fact, those schools provide more autonomy and responsibility to students than other high schools in Korea.
That physical violence, especially from teachers, is less frequently found in those schools than other high schools in Korea is one such example. Indeed this was the main reason that I decided to attend a foreign language high school. This is an achievement in the Korean educational system that should not be easily dismissed.
Even if foreign language high schools do possess defects, as the Ministry of Education argues, to reduce by governmental intervention the options individuals can choose from does not make a fair answer to the problem. Many individuals, due to severe competition awaiting them for university entrance, choose to go to foreign language high schools.
The reasons are various, among them opportunities for specialized language training and for a better-quality education.
A justifiable government response to the situation should be to provide more quality alternatives equivalent to the level of education provided at foreign language high schools, instead of eliminating the existing options and thereby impairing students’ freedom of choice.
This government has too long tended to restrict individual freedom rather than protecting it.
The last thing it should do is to make citizens hostage to its failed education policies, not to mention unduly meddle with individual freedom.
Miae Woo, masters student, London School of Economics and Political Science
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