Five elite schools will keep their status

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Five elite schools will keep their status


Cho Hee-yeon, center, superintendent of Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, holds a press conference on Wednesday to announce the office’s decision to maintain the independent and private status of five schools in the city. [YONHAP]

The Seoul education office on Wednesday decided to maintain the independent and private status of five high schools in the city, but requested that the central government amend current laws to transform independent private schools into public schools.

“The Kyungmoon High School, Sehwa Girls’ High School, Janghoon High School, Seoul Foreign Language High School and Younghoon International Middle School have all tested above the failing score in the inspection,” said Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education Superintendent Cho Hee-yeon on Wednesday.

Every independent private and foreign language school is subject to a local inspection every five years. Independent private high schools are private high schools that are not funded by the government and are free to create academic curricula outside the local educational system.

Because they are not funded by the government, some charge up to three times the tuition of public high schools.

Cho submitted a policy proposal to the Moon Jae-in administration to abolish the independent private and foreign language high school system altogether last week, causing outrage among some parents and principals. He called them a source of hierarchical education.

“Instead of relying on the local education offices to make periodic inspections to transform independent private high schools that don’t meet the government standards into public schools,” Cho said, “the central government must take the matter into its own hands and solve the systemic problem in the high school system here.”

He added, “The central government must provide a road map for legal amendments to transform independent private schools into public schools. One means to do so may be through the establishment of so-called national educational council meetings, which President Moon pledged in his campaign.”

Moon pledged to create a council to develop the short and long-term educational policies of his administration, with the president as the chair of the council, and members including the minister of education, education policymakers, Korean Council for University Education, National Council of Governors of Education, and leaders of civic groups on education.

The nominee for education minister and deputy prime minister for social affairs, Kim Sang-kon, said in his report to the National Assembly that “there is a need for transformation of independent and private high schools into public schools,” and that he will “find a rational solution via the national educational council meetings.”

Kim’s confirmation hearing is to be held today.

“The Seoul education office for now will request independent private high schools select students based on a random drawing of lots,” Cho said in a press conference Wednesday. “Janghoon and Kyungmoon high schools will adopt this procedure from next year.”

There are 77 independent private and foreign language high schools in the country, of which 23 independent private high schools and six foreign language high schools are located in Seoul.

“If the Seoul education office starts to transform independent private high schools into public schools, it will be difficult to avoid a legal battle with parents and schools,” said an official of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.

The decision drew some criticism.

“We are suspicious that Seoul education office chickened out after parents with kids at some elite schools raised opposition against its plan,” said Lee Sung-dae, an external relations director at the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union.

The Gyeonggi Office of Education also announced earlier this month its intention to transform its 10 independent private and foreign language high schools into public schools in stages. Its Superintendent Lee Jae-jung said in a press conference that independent private and foreign language high schools “create hierarchies among schools” and that he will “no longer maintain the independent private status of these schools from now on in inspections.”

The decision will be finalized if the Ministry of Education officially agrees.

Among some 80 public officials in key positions in the Moon administration, 15 officials have been found to have sent their children to private independent or foreign language high schools, international schools, or high schools in Gangnam and Seocho districts, known for elite and academically-driven students and parents, according to records obtained by Liberty Korea Party Rep. Kwak Sang-do.

They include Cho Kuk, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, Kim Jin-pyo, chairman of the advisory committee for state affairs planning and Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-hwa.


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