Clock ticking on education bills

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Clock ticking on education bills

A number of education bills are sitting idle in the National Assembly, victimized by a knee-jerk tug of war between politicians from the ruling and opposition parties. Some of these bills were presented as long as two years ago and have not yet made it to the Assembly’s Education, Science and Technology Committee for examination.

The bills contain key reform measures to hone Korea’s education competitiveness and ease the reliance on private tutoring. They include moves to privatize national and state universities, restructure weak colleges, enhance transparency at private tutoring institutions and legalize teacher evaluations to boost education standards at elementary, middle and high schools. The government’s ambitious educational reform plans could derail if these bills continue to be neglected or tossed aside.

Education should be addressed with philosophy, not political logic. Politicians are too engrossed in wrangling over board reorganization at Sangji University and punishing unionized teachers over their political activities to get to other important education bills. They should at least have these bills on the table for discussion and scrutiny.

The bill to privatize the country’s most prestigious school, Seoul National University, as part of a reorganization of state universities was submitted to the National Assembly in December last year. But it has not even reached the education committee. Privatization of SNU is vital to pave the way for raising the competitiveness of local universities. Current legislation covering state universities requires scrutiny in everything from the hiring of professors to the creation of a research body. It’s hardly surprising that SNU lags behind its counterparts in Asia in terms of competitiveness. It should be privatized to push forward necessary reforms free from meddling and supervision from the government. Once SNU is privatized, similar moves can be applied to other state universities.

The bill to promote the restructuring of weak colleges and bolster the competitiveness of stronger ones also cannot be delayed any longer. Many universities fail to recruit students because of poor management and standards. Legal grounds should be provided for founders to close down their fragile universities.

Time is now running out to make any meaningful progress. The committee has until Dec. 9 to review all these bills. If they fail to do so, the bills stand no chance of moving forward in this year’s regular session.
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