128 students are barred from special high schools

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128 students are barred from special high schools

The Seoul Education Office announced yesterday it will cancel enrollments of 128 students who abused the affirmative action policy for admission and enrolled in self-governing high schools by falsely claiming that they were from low-income or single-parent families.

Instead, the office will assign students to public schools in their residential areas.

Seoul has 13 self-governing high schools that will be launched in March. To give equal education opportunities to students raised in low-income families to study at a self-regulated high school rather than a regular high school, the Education Ministry required self-governing high schools to fill 20 percent of their student body each year with students from disadvantaged families. Most of the schools, however, found it difficult to fill the requirement and instead opted to secretly accept outstanding students who weren’t disadvantaged. Some 389 students won admission to self-regulated high schools through the affirmative action policy.

The Seoul education office’s decision sparked fierce protests from parents whose children won admission by breaking the regulations. Parents staged a demonstration in front the education office. Song Eun-seok, leader of the parents’ group, pleaded with officials to withdraw the cancellations. Parents argued they and their children are the victims and said they will file a lawsuit to reverse the decision.

“The self-regulated high schools admitted some students knowing that they were not from low-income families,” said a parent surnamed Park whose child enrolled in Joongdong High School in southern Seoul. “I paid the same amount of tuition as students who won admission through admission programs ... despite the fact that my child and others won admission through the program for the socially disadvantaged.”

Park explained self-regulated high schools give financial incentives to socially disadvantaged students and allow them to pay only one-third of the regular tuition. “The schools said if my child and other students can’t prove that they are from low-income families, they’d have us pay regular tuition,” Park said. “This means they already knew we don’t fall into a socially disadvantaged class but accepted us.”

As the probe of education irregularities grew larger, President Lee Myung-bak ordered senior officials to thoroughly investigate the case and come up with measures to make institutional changes and reform the current admission system for socially disadvantaged students to prevent a repeat of the situation in the future, said Blue House spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye.

By Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]
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