Source : Korea Herald
4 June 2010
The new liberal Seoul education Superintendent Kwak No-hyun vowed to put the brakes on government’s policies he believes have been encouraging excessive competition.
Instead, he said he would focus on realizing an unbiased learning education for students and work for their welfare.
Kwak was elected as Seoul‘s first liberal superintendent.
He has worked for various private and state-run human rights associations and also was an adviser to late President Roh Moo-hyun.
To start off his term, Kwak said he would terminate autonomous private high schools.
“There will be no further designations of autonomous private high schools,” said Kwak in a press conference following his surprising victory Wednesday.
These so-called autonomous high schools are often operated by high-profile corporations and are permitted to arrange their own curriculums. In most cases, schools set high standards for the students in order to send them to elite universities here or abroad.
“Not only the system itself is discriminative, but also many schools have been abusing it for the sake of their own benefit.”
He also pointed out that many of the so-called “elite” schools were permitted to be established even though they do not meet legal qualifications.
Kwak also vowed to alleviate the entry standards of present elite schools and lower their tuition fees, which are up to three times as high as those of ordinary high schools.
The Education Ministry had originally planned to introduce 100 autonomous private high schools by 2012 and designated 25 schools last year.
The system was, however, largely criticized by progressive teachers and parties as being discriminatory.
Conservative teachers said these schools helped improve the overall quality of students.
Kwak’s idea to improve schools is to introduce “innovative schools” designed to cater to the needs of underprivileged students and those in rural areas.
The new superintendent is also skeptical about the college admissions officer system, which has been one of the Lee Myung-bak administration’s major education projects.
“The system, which was originally established to offer more accessible college education to a wider variety of students, has now ironically caused students and parents to rely on private education,” he said.
He also hinted at his objection to the ministry’s recent moves to punish unionized teachers that support or join political parties.
“The issue was not just about the progressive Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union but about a violation of the teachers’ rights in general,” he said.
Most of the new pledges Kwak promised were likely to clash with the education policies carried out under President Lee Myung-bak so far.
As most liberal candidates did during their election campaign, Kwak also promised eco-friendly free meals for all students, which has been a controversial issue between the conservative and liberal parties.
“The Korean education circles are suffering from excessive competition caused by academic elitism,” he said.
“The 16 newly elected education superintendents, including myself, will not let this be and work to realize educational equity.”
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)