Education election reformKim Sang-kon was elected superintendent of the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education Wednesday. Supported by the Korea Teachers and Education Workers’ Union (KTU), the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and the minor opposition Democratic Labor Party, Kim has proposed education policies that conflict with those of President Lee Myung-bak. This means it is highly likely that Kim will continue to voice opposition to Lee administration policies that emphasize autonomy in admissions, diversity in school type and support for students with excellent academic performance.
With 2,000 schools and 1.86 million students, the largest numbers in Korea, policy set in Gyeonggi could have quite an impact on the rest of the nation. The new superintendent’s alleged influence peddling and the Lee administration’s education policies could disrupt education throughout the region.
Kim’s educational policies conflict with those of the Lee administration in many ways. He has already stated his opposition to private and special-purpose high schools, slated for introduction next March, criticizing them as part of a “privileged education system.” Kim also opposes ranking students based on test results; this could further detract from efforts to administer the nationwide scholastic achievement assessment, which is already facing opposition from the KTU.
According to the election results, voter turnout was a mere 12.3 percent, the lowest in history for such an election, with only 4.9 percent of eligible voters going to the polls. Can Kim truly be declared the winner of such an election?
Given the circumstances surrounding the election, Kim will have to be prudent in his administration of education policy, keeping the wishes of the entire regional population in mind. He should not commit the mistake of experimenting with education just to bring a breath of fresh air.
Just as in the election for Seoul education superintendent last year, there was an excessive degree of corruption in this election. So much so, in fact, that it cannot be said that the moral candidate was elected. In addition to the arguments over education policy, the level of slander and accusations was comparable to that of a political election.
With so much intervention by political parties, it is almost impossible for elections to be conducted without political bias. It is unfortunate to see the government spending so much money on elections that produce such questionable results. The government must come up with measures for reforming superintendent elections. Should the direct election system persist, public confidence in educational policy makers will be lost.