[Viewpoint] Teachers teach, not choose

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[Viewpoint] Teachers teach, not choose

I was a sixth-year elementary school student 40 years ago. I was studying hard for middle school entrance examinations when one day, I heard some startling news, like a thunderbolt from a clear sky. There would no longer be a middle school entrance examination, and students would be selected through a random drawing. At the time, I could not understand why education was being equalized. However, I think I finally grew to understand the reason, a little bit. The situation was so serious that equalization was necessary.

The problem is that the situation is even worse now.

Let us compare then and now. All schools had the right of selection then, but now, only certain schools such as foreign language high schools have the right of selection. The entrance examination was abolished because even though all schools had the right of selection, the top schools, including Kyunggi High School and Kyeongbuk High School, took all the talented students and this stimulated heated private tutoring. Now, foreign language high schools misuse the exclusive right of selection, which they were given only so they could select students with excellent language skills, not to enroll outstanding students in all subjects.

Second, the equalized system was focused on grade 6 students preparing for the middle school entrance examination, grade 9 students preparing for entrance to high school and high school seniors preparing for the university entrance examination. However, children now start to prepare for university entrance in elementary school.

Third, back then public education was first, no matter what. However, private education is clearly first now. One interesting thing is that the influence high school grades have in one’s university application has expanded as an effort to revive public education, but it has led to more private education - a less than effective outcome.

Fourth, it was nevertheless possible to rise to become a high figure from a humble background back then, but not anymore. People cannot dream of entering a foreign language high school unless they have enough money for private education starting in elementary school.

Fifth, in the past, the private education market was mostly university student tutors, except for a few famous large educational institutes. Today, the private education market is growing so prosperous that private education companies worth over 1 trillion won ($860 billion) are appearing.

Sixth, there was no correlation between education and real estate in the past. However these days, real estate prices in the eight school districts in Gangnam and areas with lots of educational institutes rise rapidly, not to mention that this causes instability and unpleasantness between different areas and classes.

Last is streamlined education. When I was young, there were only public and private general schools and industrial schools. Today, streamlined education is pursued through the creation of various forms of school, such as general schools, special purpose high schools, “meister” or vocational schools, autonomous private schools and independent private schools.

When a system becomes obviously unfair, it is subject to reform. The current foreign language high school system grew unfair a long time ago. This is not entirely the fault of foreign language high schools. However, it is true that the foreign language high school problem represents the peak of the unfairness. Streamlined education is important, and there are ways to pursue it in the current system. Streamlining education based on a simple “selection method” in a country with such explosive educational demands is a very dangerous and bad policy. After all, education means teaching well, not selecting well.

*The writer is a lawmaker of the Grand National Party. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Chung Doo-un
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