Eight elite high schools called out for subpar record

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Eight elite high schools called out for subpar record

Amid ongoing debate over whether local education chiefs have the authority to strip autonomous private high schools of their status as elite establishments, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education officially announced yesterday eight such institutions in Seoul that it claimed had failed to meet certain criteria.

Those eight schools, it added, will have their designations revoked starting from 2016.

“Autonomous private high schools ... focused too much on college admission rates and destroyed their original intent,” said Lee Geun-pyo, the Seoul education office’s education policy director. “They are also harming the educational environment by sweeping excellent students.”

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education recently evaluated 14 of the 25 autonomous private high schools in Seoul and said on Monday that they would move to strip eight that did not meet a certain standard of their elite status.

Those eight are: Kyung Hee, Pai Chai, Sehwa, Soongmoon, Shinil, Wooshin, Choong-Ang and Ewha Womans University high schools.

Autonomous private high schools are assessed every five years to determine whether they remain qualified to maintain their elite status. All 14 passed an evaluation earlier this year under former Superintendent Moon Yong-lin’s term. However, the education authority conducted another examination that included additional factors after the election of Cho Hee-yeon, who took office following local polls in June, claiming that the previous examination was not detailed enough.

“It feels like I’m performing an operation on my own high school because it is among the eight,” Cho said in a briefing. “But canceling their status will not put an end to the schools. They have finished a five-year experiment and [are] going back to where they started.”

The education authority has indicated before that the superintendent has the ultimate right to revoke a school’s status in accordance with the law, which states that “superintendents may cancel the designation for autonomous private high schools after discussing [the matter] with the education minister in advance,” and remains determined to push ahead with the decision.

“We will keep submitting requests to the ministry even if they don’t accept them,” said Yun Oh-yeong, the head of curriculum policy department at the education office.

The announcement instantly provoked outrage from opponents, which include parents and the head faculty at the eight high schools.

Yesterday, a group of concerned parents gathered at the city’s education office in central Seoul, where they staged a rally demanding that Cho drop the plan and step down.

“I totally understand protests by [concerned parents], but we have to ... move past this ranking-based society, which is the fundamental reason why public education is being crippled,” Cho said.

Taking into account opposition by students and parents, the local education office said the status revocations would not take effect until 2016, though the announcement is still expected to have a negative impact on next year’s admissions process.

The decision will be finalized in October after discussion with the Ministry of Education and once hearings for those schools are conducted.

BY KIM BONG-MOON [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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