Two autonomous schools repealed
The two schools announced plans to appeal the decision and to carry on with their recruitment of new students for next year. The decision deepens the rift over an issue that has been framed as a confrontation between liberal heads of local institutions and the central government.
After the decision was made by the education office, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said it would launch an investigation into the office’s decision and said it would give orders to correct the motion.
The Education Office of North Jeolla explained the reason for its decision in a press release: “Judging from their foundations’ investments into the schools’ operating costs in the past three years, and their low investment in improving the educational environment over the last five years, it is uncertain that they will be able to pay the legally required amount.” The office is run by liberal Superintendent Kim Seung-hwan.
Kim has long argued against autonomous schools, saying they promote elitism, and when his predecessor designated the two schools in May, he vowed to review the decision if elected to office.
“We have canceled the designation of the autonomous schools due to their negative effect on the standardization of high schools and their aggravation of unequal education,” the statement said.
But Hong Cheol-pyo, principal of Namsung High School, plans to fight back. “We have no choice but to file for an injunction,” said Hong.
Last Friday, both schools had submitted statements to the education office, arguing it was “incorrect to cancel the lawful designation of autonomous schools based on the superintendent’s own education policy.”
They said they had “already secured more than the required amount” to pay for operating costs. In terms of potential negative effect, they stressed each city needs to have at least one prestigious school “in order to stop the outflow of people from the region and foster the growth of talented students.”
They also refuted concerns about unequal education, saying that no bright student will be shut out from an autonomous school just because he or she has no money, because the schools would provide scholarships and adhere to the 20 percent quota for students from less-privileged backgrounds.
Autonomous high schools were introduced by the Lee Myung-bak administration last year as part of its drive to raise the quality of public education through competition among schools.
Forty-eight high schools nationwide have been given the status so far, allowing them to select their students and offer greater diversity in terms of subject choice, study hours and assessment methods.
By Christine Kim [email@example.com]