The coming school war

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The coming school war

An unprecedented new batch of liberal educators is likely to bring sweeping changes to the education landscape. On Tuesday, voters put a host of progressive educators in local education offices, challenging the education system led by deeply rooted conservative bureaucrats. The progressive education superintendents can either bring a new wind of change, or upset and worsen the public education system, depending on how they conduct their experiments.

The most troubling prospect is that the central government and the new superintendents are likely to clash over every education policy. Liberal candidates were elected to head six out of 16 metropolitan and provincial education offices after campaigning to oppose government policies. They are likely to pursue a platform opposite from that of the government. If progressive superintendents unite against the government’s policies, the repercussions will build into a mega-size shock wave, especially considering that liberal superintendents now run Seoul, home to half the country’s population, and the largest province, Gyeonggi. This is true in Gwangju and Gangwon, too, where they are likely to collide with government policies.

The government’s plan to expand high schools with free curriculums and college prep private schools will likely hit a snag. Liberal superintendents are opposed to these schools, fearing they only serve to select students and encourage expensive, private tutoring. Other government priorities - standardized academic tests, disclosure of academic performances by schools, free choice of schools - could be overturned. The evaluation of schoolteachers introduced this year nationwide can also be challenged.

The conflict between the government and superintendents will likely filter into classrooms and eventually affect students. The two sides must somehow seek common ground to minimize the damage and confusion in classrooms.

The government must humbly recognize the rise of the progressive forces. Both sides must sit down together to iron out their differences and compromise on a new way to salvage public education. If bureaucrats continue to promulgate out-of-reality policies sitting at their desks, they are bound for a head-on collision with liberal superintendents. The superintendents themselves also must not make schools an experimental lab for their convictions. They must remember that they were elected largely because of public frustration with current system and that their votes hover below 50 percent. They must not ignore the voices of the other half.

In education, ideological differences should not exist. Only our children’s best interests, futures, dreams and visions must matter.

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