Dangers of forced diversityOur educational system has failed to break away from its image as a hotbed of corruption.
The latest scandal is tied to the admissions system at autonomous private high schools in Seoul for students of certain economic standing. The system is intended to help students whose families are poor. But many students from middle-class families have been lumped into that category. Autonomous high schools are largely responsible for implementing the unfair admissions process.
Some schools that experienced a lack of applicants from students in poor families began marketing to parents of middle-school students who are in a higher income bracket. They apparently lured students by saying all they needed was a recommendation letter from the principal, even if they did not qualify based on their income.
Even more astonishing is that they conducted “admissions marketing,” in which they targeted students who failed examinations to get into foreign language and science high schools. Middle school principals are also to blame, as they wrote recommendation letters for students they certainly knew did not meet the criteria.
Educational authorities are responsible as well. The problem, after all, started when they made the schools fill at least 20 percent of their spots each year with students from lower-income families. That figure is too high, given that a much lower percentage of families with children entering high school fall into the lower-income group.
Therefore, schools were destined to experience a shortfall of applicants. The problem stems from a policy that was created simply to silence those who said autonomous high schools are institutions for privileged students. The vague qualification of a principal’s recommendation letter and the fact that it was difficult to verify helped worsen the situation.
This must not be repeated.
If it is, the good intentions behind forcing autonomous high schools to diversify their classrooms and strengthen their education programs will be lost. The shortfall of applicants from poor families signals that we should revert back to the normal admissions process.
Fundamentally, it would be wise to lower the admissions ratio for underprivileged students eventually to fit the reality of the situation. There is also a need to establish committees at middle schools to help create a system that selects students according to a clear standard.
It should never be forgotten that once a school loses reliability and trust when it comes to admissions, its very existence becomes endangered.