A shameful portrait of schoolsParents with school children are very surprised to see their kids’ school facilities. They’re almost as bad as the facilities when they went to school. The substandard bathrooms, school cafeterias and the pitiful scene of students using the bathroom to change their clothes for gym class, to name a few, are a constant source of complaints from students in what amounts to a shameful portrait of our schools these days.
The “Upgrade Our Schools” series in the JoongAng Ilbo explicitly shows how big of a gap there is between the level of our school facilities and the status of our country as a member nation of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The school authorities and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology should stop telling our students to adjust to substandard school facilities.
Schools and education authorities may, of course, have an excuse for backward school facilities. They have no choice but to be stingy in spending resources to improve those facilities as nearly 70 to 80 percent of city and provincial education authorities’ budget go to fixed expenditures, including personnel expenses. The principals’ distress is somewhat understandable given as much as 500 million won ($432,152) is needed to improve a school’s bathroom to the level of public bathrooms in subway stations. Under such circumstances, one can hardly leave the issue to the hands of school authorities only.
If the government has trouble increasing the budget by a big margin, 16 education offices across the country need to up the priority for investment in improving school facilities.
In addition, the portion of local governments’ subsidies to municipal education offices also needs to be increased to more than 1 percent of their total budget. Enhancing education services for local residents is a major concern for heads of local governments. Needless to say, local education offices are also required to save as much as they can to help improve the quality of the school facilities under their jurisdiction. In this respect, we welcome the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education’s decision to send inspection teams to schools to find reasons for fraudulent construction of school facilities or a source of waste.
The effort to upgrade the quality of our public education should begin with first creating a satisfactory school environment for our students. We expect all the parties involved to do their best to upgrade the basic infrastructure of our schools.