[Viewpoint] Back to the basics of education

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[Viewpoint] Back to the basics of education

A heated debate has been brewing over the fate of private elite high schools - special purpose high schools and foreign language high schools. The presidential office has taken the issue into its own hands and hopefully, this time, we can see actions faithful to the fundamentals of education.

What is true education?

Education in a democratic society should provide for equal opportunity, not equal results. If education aspires for equality in outcome, it will only lock itself in its own limits. We have already tasted the ills of a uniform education policy. One might say the purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows. And offering room for creativity and diversity has been this administration’s idea of liberal education. The government has experimented with a wide range of school models such as free-curriculum and dormitory schools, all in the hopes of breeding many talents in various fields.

We need to shift our attention to the core of our education problem. We must return to the basics. When a couple confronts a crisis in marriage, they are asked to look back to their dating days. When an investigation hits a snag, it is best to return to the starting point of the event. The Renaissance was brought up by a retrospective movement back to the classics to seek wisdom to restore arts and literature. Returning to the foundation often solves problems. “Ad fonts,” a Latin phrase meaning retrogression or a return to the origin, can be particularly applied to our educational problem. Both the problem and solution of our education predicament lies in our public education. Strengthening education at public schools and making them competitive is the key to our education’s restoration and viability. Excellent teachers and pupils hoping to foster bright minds rather than intellectual success can revive public schools. Good teachers make good pupils. Educators of quality intellect, character and authority can help rebuild public schools.

Education authorities must concentrate efforts in training teachers and developing curriculum that nurtures the mind. Our teachers must think themselves the Johann Pestalozzi of our society, remembering their role is “to teach children, not subjects.” It cannot happen overnight, but when public education becomes strong, the need for private will gradually dissolve. The government should not make the mistakes like its predecessors of lacking patience and farsightedness in education policy. Parents will be willing to wait if the government works on rebuilding the foundation.

*The writer is a poet and former president of Sungkyul University.
Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Sung-young
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