Stick to education principlesConcern is rising nationwide over the government’s education policies. A few days ago, Lee Ki-su, president of Korea University and chairman of the Korean Association of Private University Presidents, criticized the current education system, saying, “The Lee Myung-bak administration’s education measures started out emphasizing ‘competitiveness’ and ‘effectiveness,’ but those concepts are dying out now.”
Other private university presidents at the scene requested that universities be allowed limitless competition and that the government liberalize regulation.
What the group of presidents requested shows that though the government has said it is liberalizing university education, in reality, the policy isn’t working.
When President Lee took office, he promised that he would not be involved in universities’ entrance examinations policies. The Lee administration also named last year as the first year of “liberalized entrance examinations.” But the government is still involved in setting standards for college entrance exams - it just handed over the work to the state-led Korean Council for University Education.
The government has been pushing forward with a college administrator system and has been working to abolish university entrance exams, the high school ranking system and admissions for donations under its “Three Nos” policy. But it isn’t really looking at the private school law, which is the major obstacle to allowing universities to liberalize. College liberalization will not work unless the private school law is abolished. The government itself is contradicting its education policy, which claims to emphasize freedom.
Even the government’s policies on elementary and middle schools are heading in the opposite direction from the liberalization and competition originally suggested. One example is the independent private elite high schools that were introduced to diversify school systems and raise the quality of classes. It is contradictory to select new students by simply promoting competition.
Though it’s late, the government needs to start getting to the heart of the education issue. A few days ago, President Lee Myung-bak said that he cannot give up the pursuit of excellence in education. The government should keep in mind that if it acts against the principles of its education policy - freedom and competition - Korean schools will lose competitiveness.
The upcoming meeting to solve the over-heated foreign language high schools issue in early December will be a chance for the government to prove its willingness to improve education here.