A self-serving decisionBarely a month has passed since the newly elected superintendents of education took control of education policy, but schools are already overwhelmed with confusion and conflict. Superintendents with a history of being liberal or supportive of teachers’ unions are clashing with the government over key education policies.
They have resisted the nationwide academic assessment of students and evaluations of teachers while campaigning to institutionalize greater students’ rights and a ban on corporal punishment at schools. Recently, North Jeolla Superintendent Kim Seung-hwan revoked the designation of two high schools as autonomous schools capable of choosing students and running their own curriculum. We are astounded at how far these liberal superintendents may go.
Kim’s decision in particular could trigger severe distrust of education officials among students and parents and incite anger toward public education policies. The two schools in Iksan and Gunsan had been approved for designation as autonomous high schools by the former superintendent and Education Ministry. The schools have already completed the orientation process and publicized their admissions schedule. They were to start screening for admissions in November.
The schools naturally are strongly protesting the superintendent’s decision. One of the schools’ administration staff railed that an education policy involving a school’s future, its students and their families should not be toyed with. A council of principals of 49 nationwide autonomous high schools plan to petition against Kim.
Autonomous high schools were created to give students more choices. These schools are permitted to create a specialized curriculum with no restrictions on classroom structure, course offerings or grade allocation. They also help promote positive competition among schools. But Kim is opposed to the designation of autonomous schools, arguing that they promote elitism and aggravate the education gap by exploiting class differences.
The superintendent’s authority over local education policies is absolute. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the superintendent to use that power with discretion. Education policies should not be swayed by a superintendent’s personal ideology or education philosophy. If an individual’s character and personal beliefs are allowed to influence education, no one will have faith in the country’s education policy.
Before forcing their own ideas and beliefs on their communities, superintendents should pause to think about what students and parents want. Kim should reverse his decision to revoke the designation for both schools.