Education requires experts
That requirement has been reduced through a series of revisions and was scheduled to disappear completely for the coming June 4 elections. This led to concerns and protests from the education community about the possibility that an education office head could be elected without any knowledge of education.
As a result, the National Assembly recently revised the law governing the issue, adding a requirement of three years experience for becoming a candidate, starting in the by-elections after July this year. However, some still argue that experience in education is not necessarily needed to become a candidate.
But there are clear reasons why the candidates should have experience in education. The most important reason is Clause 4, Article 31 of the Constitution, which stipulates that “independence, professionalism and political impartiality in education and the autonomy of institutions of higher learning are guaranteed under the conditions as prescribed by law.”
The Constitutional Court also ruled in 1996 that there is a need for educators and education experts to lead and oversee education in order to prevent outside influence and ensure the country’s stable growth. Independence, professionalism and political impartiality are the basis of education that will decide the next 100 years of this country, the court said.
The three-year requirement, therefore, satisfies the constitutional spirit that requires experience for a head of the education office. For education to be independent from other public areas and to guarantee professional management by experts, the requirement is also necessary.
The special nature of the job and the recent trend for stronger autonomy in education must also be taken into account.
The head of an education office is responsible for at least 17 major tasks, including the creation of educational rules, the establishment, relocation and shutting down of schools and other educational institutions, the management of curriculums and the promotion of science and technology.
Furthermore, increasingly there are cases in which the heads of education offices establish guidelines and ordinances on major issues relating to the local education community, enforcing these based on strengthened autonomy.
Since June of last year, the head of the education office has also been in charge of the appointments of educational specialists in the jurisdiction. As the scope of the job expanded, it became hard to perform duties without actual field experience.
Lastly, I would like to point out that the ruling and opposition parties have already had serious discussions about reintroducing the requirement. The two sides agreed that education office heads are the sole officials responsible for deciding and enforcing education policies in their regions and that a minimum level of experience is required for the job.
Lawmakers also agreed that public participation can be hindered if the requirement is set too high. That was why they agreed on three years of experience as the requirement.
Education cannot be completely separated from politics, but it needs to keep a certain distance. The requirement will play a role in guaranteeing independence, professionalism and political neutrality in education, as stated in the Constitution.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
*The author is a lawmaker of the Saenuri Party and a member of the National Assembly’s Education, Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee.
By Park In-sook