Threat to foreign language high schools roils parents

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Threat to foreign language high schools roils parents

Members of the so-called National Association of Foreign Language High School Parents gather in front of the National Assembly in western Seoul on Friday to urge the Yoon Suk-yeol administration not to abolish foreign language high schools. [NEWS1]

Members of the so-called National Association of Foreign Language High School Parents gather in front of the National Assembly in western Seoul on Friday to urge the Yoon Suk-yeol administration not to abolish foreign language high schools. [NEWS1]

The Ministry of Education has once again found itself in the crosshairs after suggesting that so-called foreign language high schools could be entirely scrapped.
 
Foreign language high schools are private or public high schools that allot more of their curriculums to foreign language studies. They are normally granted more freedom in selecting students, developing courses and deciding how much they charge in tuition. 
 
They are a type of “special purpose high school” along with science high schools, sports high schools, arts high schools and international high schools, each of which specializes in a particular field, or a “special purpose.”
 
There are about 30 foreign language high schools across the nation today.
 
Foreign language high schools have long been a subject of socio-political debate, especially after the former left-leaning Moon Jae-in administration announced that all 30 schools would be turned into ordinary high schools by 2025.
 
The Moon administration’s logic was that the schools were failing to serve their original purpose and merely preparing students for college admissions. The government also accused the schools of worsening the divide between those who can afford higher-end private education and those who cannot, in light of the fact that many students who apply for foreign language high schools usually attend hagwon (private academies) for years to get in.
 
But current conservative President Yoon Suk-yeol pledged to respect the “diversity” of high schools on the campaign trail, leading many to believe that his predecessor’s efforts to get rid of foreign language high schools would be thrown out.
 
That changed on July 29, when Education Minister Park Soon-ae told reporters that she was about to tell Yoon about the ministry’s plan to review “abolishing” foreign language high schools or “converting” them into ordinary high schools, technically following the Moon administration.
 
The ministry said the suggestion was relayed to Yoon later that day.
 
In explaining the ministry's decision to do away with foreign language high schools, Choi Seong-bu, the Education Ministry’s spokesperson, told the media in a regular briefing on Aug. 1 that there were “aspects” to the schools that “do not fit into the future society.”
 
Members of the so-called National Association of Foreign Language High School Parents gathered in front of the National Assembly in western Seoul on Friday morning to denounce the Education Ministry’s recent remarks and accuse officials of trying to ram through policies without getting a public consensus.
 
The parents called for Education Minister Park’s resignation.
 
“Foreign language high schools nurture future talent for the globalized era,” the parents said in a joint statement, “which is why we need them to enhance [Korea’s] international competitiveness.”
 
Members of the association said they were planning to hold another press conference on Thursday in downtown Seoul.
 
In a statement, the Ministry of Education said later on Friday that it was “reviewing various ways” to handle the issue. “Even if we do decide to abolish [foreign language high schools]," it said, "we will create several options from which each school can choose, rather than setting the same deadline [for all schools] like the former administration.”

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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