Int’l schools forbidden to favor good English skills

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Int’l schools forbidden to favor good English skills

Getting into an international middle school is about to get trickier. Having great English skills is no longer going to put a sixth grader at the top of the application list.

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education confirmed to the JoongAng Daily yesterday that the special selection process used in international middle schools in Seoul favoring students who excel in English will be ditched this year.

“We made the decision to abolish the special entry process to reduce the fierce competition to gain admission to these schools,” said an official at the education office. “Our aim is to turn down the heat generated by competition for private education and the money spent on additional education every year.”

Education policy in Korea is the subject of a tug of war between conservatives and liberals, especially special-purpose high schools and international schools. Conservatives, including the ruling Grand National Party, believe those schools enhance Korea’s human resources and are vital to its future. Liberals say the schools make an end run around Korea’s egalitarian educational system and are unfair because students who get expensive training at private educational institutes called hagwon or who have lived abroad stand a better chance at admission.

After local elections in June, control of Seoul’s education office went from the conservatives to the liberal Democratic Party.

Starting in October, sixth graders applying to an international middle school will only need to present school records, teacher recommendations and personal study plans. Applicants will no longer be subject to the additional tests and interviews that were part of the special selection process, according to the Seoul education official.

“If the students choose to submit their English proficiency test scores, competition records or any extracurricular activities, they will be given penalties because that information is no longer required for admissions,” said the official.

In the past, students with years of experience abroad and awards showing excellence in English ability have chosen the special selection process to get into the schools because they were not required to submit prior school records.

In past years, Daewon and Younghoon international middle schools selected about 40 students every year based on their English abilities.

By Christine Kim []
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