Freshmen shun autonomous high schools in Seoul

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Freshmen shun autonomous high schools in Seoul

Autonomous private high schools are having trouble filling their classrooms due to expensive tuitions and doubts over whether they’re much better than normal schools.

According to statistics released Sunday by the Seoul Education Office, 12 autonomous high schools out of 26 in Seoul failed to meet their targets for next year’s freshmen classes.

Started in 2009, autonomous high schools are meant to give Korea’s brightest students intensive training in areas in which they excel and are outside the lottery system that assigns most students to schools. Attending them is also considered the best chance of getting into Korea’s top universities. They receive no financial support from the government.

“We have to discuss how to take steps to address the shortage in the autonomous schools,” an official of the ministry said. “We can’t allow the schools [with enrollment shortages] to begin their semesters next year.”

Yongmoon High School had only 99 applicants for 455 places. Dongyang High School received 82 applicants for a class of 280.

The ministry planned to extend the admission process to attract more students. “I think parents do not feel there is any difference between autonomous and ordinary schools,” Lee Je-hyeong, principal of Dongyang high school. “We are planning to order all teachers in our school to promote the school during the extended admission period, but we are still worried about filling our quorum.”

Analysts also say that since autonomous private schools usually get smart students, competition is high and grades are generally lower than in ordinary schools.

“Parents would rather send their children to ordinary schools [for better academic records], because academic performance is crucial for admission to prestigious universities,” said Kim Hee-dong, an analyst at Jinhak Corp., a private educational consultant.

Analysts also pointed out that the number of the autonomous schools in Seoul is now 26, double the number in 2009. “Many experts thought about 10 autonomous schools were appropriate in Seoul, considering demand and supply,” said Oh Jong-un, an analyst at Etwoos Cheongsol, a university entrance exam consultancy.

Lim Seong-ho, an analyst at Haneul Education Co., Ltd. said, “If the shortage continues, the current applicants could cancel their applications and move back to ordinary high schools.”


By Park Yu-mi, Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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