[Letters] Abolishing elite schools

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[Letters] Abolishing elite schools


Regarding the letter “What witchcraft?” (Oct. 26): Though John M. Rodgers has criticized the movement of trying to abolish the elite schools head-on, his assertion does not seem persuasive in ignoring the negative effects on our students and society which the schools have had.

Let me tell you two stories that come from my personal experiences:

1. At this time two years ago, my son in his third year of middle school once bluntly told me, “A few of my classmates preparing for the foreign language high schools’ exams have been absent from school since last week.”

“Why don’t you study at home?” I responded sharply to my son, who had not been preparing for the elite schools, but lingering on the brink of choosing his course.

“What about the other classmates taking classes? I don’t want to skip my classes.”

His answer surprisingly surpassed my expectations. At the same time, I wondered if there were any marks on the school records noting the fact that his classmates were absent.

Probably not!

2. Around the beginning of January this year, I had dinner with four of my close friends, one of whom said cautiously that his daughter had passed an exam for a reputable foreign language high school.

With a mix of surprise and embarrassment, we congratulated him and drank a toast in honor of his daughter.

After a while, a friend, a professor at a prestigious university, seemed to become peevish and, as his face grew flushed, asked to stop talking about our kids. All of sudden, our friendly gathering turned awkward. You might guess why.

The stories above are merely simple examples of tragedies to which grade-oriented education has given rise.

The problem is that the foreign language high schools have played the key role in the birth of such tragedies. To gain access to the elite schools, grade school children - even preschool kids - have jumped on the bandwagon with elaborate plans made by their parents.

Without money to burn, their parents can’t help giving up the slogan “the faster, the better.”

Why?

It’s because attending the elite high schools is the essential route to the prestigious universities in our country, which has become an open secret. After all, acknowledging the serious side effects of rote learning are beside the point.

It’s an undeniable fact that the elite schools are the epicenter of the educational rat race in our society. What I’m most concerned about is social discrimination against regular high school students.

Once they fail to enter the elite high schools, they are branded as “losers.” Furthermore, they are called “losers” without regard to their intentions. All this, only because they have not been granted admission to the top-tier high schools. Another tragedy!

Under these circumstances, how could we expect fair judgments on the entrance exams for universities? I don’t care a bit about the existence of the foreign language high schools, I just am worried about their negative impact on our society.

Sadly, running off the rails of improving foreign language education, they have, with all their might, become training schools for the future students of prestigious universities.

Unfortunately, with the arguments over the abolishment of the schools coming out, they are compelled to adopt temporary remedies like abolishing English listening tests.

Who would believe in such changes? It’s time to demonstrate more fundamental measures for all of our students, not only for those in the elite.

* Moon Sang-ho, a former journalist, now volunteers to teach English to two high school students at a welfare center every Saturday
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