Compromise on educationIt seems that foreign language high schools, which have been placed on the verge of being entirely abolished, will at least exist. But there is still a high chance that they will have to drastically reduce the size of the student body, which means their existence will cease to be meaningful. The core of the two tentative reform plans for the foreign language high school system, unveiled by the Education Ministry on Thursday, will either allow them to exist but abolish a significant number of them or will transform them into ordinary schools. Under Plan A, schools can opt to maintain the system or become international high schools, autonomous private or public high schools or ordinary high schools. Plan B says all of them will lose their status as special-purpose schools and become schools with a special focus on foreign language education.
The problem is that even if the schools are allowed to keep their status as foreign language high schools, they will be required to reduce the number of students per class and the number of classes per grade to the level now maintained by science high schools, another type of special-purpose high school for the top middle school students in the country. Currently, the number of students per class at foreign language high schools is 36.5 on average, compared with 16.9 students at science high schools. The average number of classes at these schools ranges between 10 and 12 but science high schools have six classes per grade at most. That means foreign language high schools will have to cut the number of students and classes by half. In some cases, enrollment could shrink to almost one-fourth of the current figure. That makes it hard to predict whether foreign language high schools run by private foundations can operate normally. However, the government plans to essentially say that the schools should be abolished.
We have claimed the controversy over foreign language high schools should be resolved under the larger framework of our competitiveness in education. The key argument is that the schools increase the nation’s reliance on private education. However, we are not taking issue with the fact that the schools send a major portion of their students to prestigious universities. If that is a problem, the government should revise the selection process, which would in turn reduce private education costs. Abolishing the schools altogether will eventually drag down the competitiveness of all of our students. A tentative solution could be to allow the schools to maintain their status on the condition that they cut their student body in half.
A country’s survival is dependant upon its ability to foster citizens who can compete in a global society. It is hoped that the final version of the reform measure to be unveiled next month includes plans to boost the schools’ competitiveness, while also fixing what’s been broken.