New private high schools may have broken rules

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New private high schools may have broken rules

Even before their launch, Seoul’s self-governing private high schools are suspected by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education of breaking regulations regarding student enrollment. The education office plans to start an investigation.

“We have ordered 11 district education offices [in Seoul] to investigate whether self-governing private high schools in the regions accepted students under the ‘social welfare’ program [for students who come from low-income bracket families] who do not fall in this category,” the education office said yesterday.

Self-governing high schools are required to fill 20 percent of their student capacity each year with students who come from low-income bracket homes or from single-parent families. However, out of the 13 self-governing high schools expected to launch next month, eight did not have enough students from this category apply. As such, there have been suspicions that these schools accepted students regardless of their family’s income level just to fill the required number of students.

Shin, a teacher at a middle school in Yongsan district, said that last December he got a call from a teacher at S high school, designated to be a self-governing private high school.

“The teacher said that the school did not have enough students to fill the ‘social welfare’ category,” he said.

“He said that the school will extend its application period and that students who were rejected during the first round of applications should apply again. He even stated the name of a student, A, who had the highest grades of the students that failed the first round of admissions. He said A should apply again.”

Shin added that when he asked the teacher from S if students could apply even though they are not from low-income families, he was told it was fine. According to teachers, one of the reasons that the self-governing schools had a hard time gathering low-income students under the social welfare program is that many students don’t like to have the stigma as one who needs social welfare.

Last year, the government announced that Seoul’s first 13 self-governing private high schools would launch in March. Unlike public schools, these private schools will not receive government funding in exchange for having the freedom to establish their own curriculums. While half of the school system will still include the compulsory nationwide curriculum, the schools have the power to set the other half in their own terms. The government aims to offer customized classes to fit a variety of academic skill levels and lower the nation’s dependency on private education institutes.


By Park Su-ryon, Cho Jae-eun [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]
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