1st special school goes autonomous

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1st special school goes autonomous

The Hankuk Academy of Foreign Studies yesterday became the first foreign-language high school in Korea to convert into an autonomous private high school.

The shift was a way around a new regulation that aims to restrict class sizes in foreign-language high schools to 25. Foreign-language high schools that exceed the limit can be converted into regular high schools or international schools.

The Gyeonggi provincial office of education said that Hankuk met all the requirements to convert into an autonomous high school: its foundation grants are equivalent to at least 5 percent of its net tuition revenue; its tuition is less than twice that of a regular private high school; and it selects students from a wide range of economic, social and regional backgrounds.

As an autonomous private high school, Hankuk will be able to select its students from a nationwide pool beginning next year. As a foreign-language school, it was restricted to accepting students who live in Gyeonggi.

Currently, there are only seven autonomous high schools in Korea that are allowed to select students without regard to residence.

Hankuk originally had five language departments, which will be replaced by international, humanities and science divisions, although foreign languages will still be taught. As an autonomous school, it will select more than 20 percent of its student body through the admission officer system, rather than entrance exam scores.

Its application guidelines will be released next month.

Conversion to an autonomous high school was not easy. Hankuk applied for the shift last February, but it was rejected because its planned tuition was too high, and the mandatory student contribution to the school’s development fund was more than six times that of a regular high school. After four months of negotiation, the school agreed to lower its tuition fees and charge only 300,000 won ($252.65) for the development fund, comparable to that of a regular private high school.

For other schools that want to follow Hankuk’s example, the biggest hurdle is securing funding from foundations. Foreign-language high schools under economic strain will either have to reduce the number of students per class to 25, or lose their current status.

By Lee Won-jean [enational@joongang.co.kr]
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