Where’s the consistency?The government’s education policy has gone astray. Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae announced that all elite high schools — autonomous schools, foreign language schools and international schools — will lose their special status and become ordinary private schools beginning in 2025. The special status of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act will be eliminated. The government is pushing ahead with yet another radical change after causing confusion by mentioning increasing the weight of the state exam in college admissions.
The elite high schools in question plan to file suits against the decision, saying that it violates student choice in schools and education, with the Constitutional Court. Parents and students are in a collective panic. Education policy has again become victimized by the whims of the governing power.
The special-purpose and autonomous high schools were institutionalized to diversify school choice and education after the government’s universal schooling brought down academic standards. Once the elite schools are gone, academic standards will inevitably get worse.
The education ministry has not even gone through the necessary hearings and public opinion-tapping process. It went on with the plan suddenly after the president called for more fairness in education and college entries following the controversy over the academic credentials of the children of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk. The conversion of the special high schools into regular schools will only worsen regional discrepancies and the concentration of populations in certain southern Seoul areas where relatively good general schools are located. Before changing the high school system, it should have upgraded the standards of public schools first.
Education in Korea has long been in shatters as the system changes under every new government. The latest change could reverse if a new government comes in. Predictability is as important as fairness in education. Otherwise, there is no future. The legislature must hurry and put together a bill that institutionalizes a state education commission to design an education system irrelevant to the changes in governing power.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 8, Page 34