A private school bill at last

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A private school bill at last

It is fortunate that the ruling Grand National Party decided to revise again the law on private schools to ease government’s regulations on them. At a meeting of party leaders yesterday, the GNP made the decision to submit the re-amended bill to the regular session of the National Assembly. The GNP had promised to revise the private school law on several occasions, including during presidential elections and National Assembly elections. But until the Lee Myung-bak administration passed its halfway point, the ruling party could not carry forward the debate due to opposition parties’ roadblocks, escalating grievances from private schools.

The previous law on private schools was rushed through in 2005 by the then-ruling Uri Party. But private schools have continued to display their resentment, particularly over the two major “poisonous clauses,” which mandated the introduction of “open boards of directors” and giving more power to university councils.

First, the clause on open boards of directors stipulated that more than one fourth of a school’s corporate directors be outside candidates recommended by a school administration committee or a university council. The clause may go against our constitution as it not only restricts schools’ innate jurisdiction but also infringes on their autonomy. Second, the decision to empower a university council, which is comprised of representatives of professors, faculty members and students, to serve as the highest decision-making body, is also seriously flawed because a school’s corporate body then becomes a figurehead with responsibility but without power. In that situation, schools are very likely to get mired in conflicts and confrontation when problems occur, which would inevitably lead to a fatal loss of competitiveness in education.

The new bill to be proposed by GNP lawmaker Cho Jeon-hyeok attempts to scrap the two controversial clauses from the previous law. We welcome his effort to correct the flaws of the earlier administration, which tried to limit private schools’ autonomy in the name of stamping out corruption. We believe that private schools’ misbehaviour can be contained by improving the audit and surveillance of education authorities. The private school law should never be a stumbling block to their efforts to enhance their competitiveness.

Legislator Cho’s bill also enables universities that face closure to give their remaining properties to their founders or close relatives. We also welcome his inclusion of this clause as it is a necessary tool to induce voluntary closure of unqualified schools. We hope that his re-amended bill will be passed in this regular session of the National Assembly to pave the way for the acceleration of college restructuring.
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