Reinventing for a lifetime of education
Prestigious vocational high schools of the past have been transformed into regular schools. Mokpo Commercial High School - whose graduates include President Kim Dae-jung - is now Jeonnam Jeil High School, and Busan Commercial High school - where President Roh Moo-hyun went - became Gaesung High School in 2004. Dongji Commercial High School, the alma mater of President Lee Myung-bak, changed to Dongji High School in 1989.
But one commercial high school has chosen to keep its name, wearing it proudly as the best commercial secondary education institute: Seoul Girls’ Commercial High School.
In 1926, Seoul Girls’ Commercial High School was established by Han Yang-ho, the son of Han Kyu-seol, who fervently opposed the Eulsa Treaty, which deprived Korea of its sovereignty. The school’s educational legacy has continued for three generations. Last year, 172 of its 175 graduates found employment, while the other three went on to college. Among the 300 female branch managers of the big four commercial banks, 108 are alumnae of Seoul Girls’ Commercial High School.
In their first year, students take core classes. In their second, they choose a major and receive hands-on education. The school also has strict rules. When students arrive, mobile phones are collected until after school. At orientation, students are taught proper manners. New students have to visit the faculty offices as if they were in the corporate world, introducing themselves as if their teachers were their new bosses.
The country’s education inflation has become a big problem. When 80 percent of high school students go to college, they no longer meet the standards of higher education. The educational system has to be reorganized so that students at commercial high schools can find employment upon graduation, only later pursuing further education before returning to a more advanced occupation.
Today, education in Korea only focuses on the earlier stage of life. It works like a front-wheel-drive car. What we need is four-wheel drive. Six years ago, Japan set a national vision of “change jobs twice and study four times.” With an aging society, Korea needs to reshuffle the educational system to offer a lifetime of education.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Noh Jae-hyun