Ministry says elite schools should keep their status

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Ministry says elite schools should keep their status

The Ministry of Education overruled the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education’s decision to demote six autonomous high schools on Tuesday, allowing them to retain their elite status.

The local education office announced in October that it would strip six autonomous high schools - Kyung Hee, Pai Chai, Sehwa, Wooshin, Choong-Ang and Ewha Womans University high schools - of their higher status, claiming that they failed an assessment it has implemented since July to ensure fairness in education.

As a result of the announcement, the schools were expected to become general high schools by March 2016.

But the education ministry has demanded that the Seoul education office revoke its decision to demote the schools by Monday, adding that it will enforce the revocation should the local authority refuse.

Under the law, the government can mandate that local authorities cancel decisions if they are against regulations. It can then enforce the order.

But Seoul Superintendent of Education Cho Hee-yeon has told the ministry that he will not change its mind.

The education ministry has stipulated that Cho’s decision to re-inspect autonomous schools that had already been approved to keep their status after he was sworn into his position in July was an abuse of power.

The ministry also said the education authority had violated the Administrative Procedure Act under the new chief given that it had added new standards to the evaluation.

“Some criticized that the previous evaluation in June was not strict enough,” said Cho in response to the ministry on Monday. “So we improved it and inspected the schools again. The cancelation of their status was according to the regulation with superintendent’s authority and it doesn’t need to be revoked.”

The ministry claimed that the office did not abide by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which stipulates that the withdrawal of the status of autonomous high schools must be discussed with the Education Minister.

“The chief of the Seoul education office had to talk to the education minister before making decisions, and he should have re-requested after the ministry turned down their suggestion,” said an official of the education ministry.

But the Seoul education authority claims the ministry has turned down requests for talks.

“The ministry has refused our request to have meetings three times,” said an official of the local education authority. “And the decision wasn’t made unilaterally because we also held hearings for the eight autonomous schools earlier, which none of the schools attended.”

The Seoul education office has reportedly decided to submit a formal objection to the ministry’s decision. Local authorities that oppose a decision made by the state government can object to it within 15 days.

Though the ministry is trying to revoke the Seoul education office’s decision, there is confusion among students attending high school next year onwards given that the application process begins Wednesday.


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