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   Administration gives schools more autonomy
   4016    2008-04-17
Source : Joongang Daily

April 16, 2008

Ending decades of government intervention in education, the Lee Myung-bak administration announced yesterday its decision to take its hands off the nation’s elementary, middle and high schools.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology released a measure to reduce government oversight on public and private schools by guaranteeing principals more power to make decisions on education — from curriculum choices to personnel management.
“Starting today, the ministry will scrap restrictions that uniformly governed specifics of how classes were conducted at schools, after-school activities and offerings of elite classes,” Woo Hyung-sik, vice minister of education, said in a media briefing.
According to the ministry, elementary, middle and high schools will be allowed to form classes based on student rank. A school principal will also have the right to conduct extra classes before and after school hours.
“Schools fell behind private education institutes, not because teachers were incapable, but because curriculums were standardized,” said Kim Hye-nam, a teacher at Munil High School. “It is more effective when a class is composed of students at the same level.”
Choi Dae-han, a high school senior, welcomed the change, saying he could concentrate more when his classmates share the same level of understanding and performance. By contrast, another high school student, who wished to be identified only as Park, said, “My performance is bad, so I will be embarrassed when classes are formed by rank.” According to the ministry, schools will be allowed to hire private instructors for after-school classes, a program banned by the liberal administrations. Schools will be allowed to contract private education companies to run after-school programs.
The move is to absorb students who are spending after-school hours at private tutoring institutes for crash courses to prepare for college admission tests. According to a government survey released in February, parents spent more than 20 trillion won ($21 billion) on private tutoring for children last year. In a country notorious for the educational fervor of parents, the amount is equal to 10 percent of the annual state budget.
The survey also said 77 percent of elementary, middle and high school students are privately tutored, for an average of 10.1 hours a week.
“If a famous lecturer will teach at a school for a low tuition fee, I don’t have to send my child to an expensive tutoring program any more,” said the mother of a ninth grader in Seoul.
Choi Gi-suk, principal of Jayang High School, was skeptical about the feasibility. “It is not easy to push teachers out of schools and hire celebrity lecturers to reduce household spending on private education,” he said. The ministry also said it will hand over all personnel management rights to city and provincial education offices starting in June. As of now, principals at elementary, middle and high schools are appointed by the president, while the education minister has the right to appoint senior officials at local education boards.
According to the ministry, 29 administrative guidelines will be scrapped and 13 legal clauses will be revised before June for the change. “Although regulations are lifted, each city and provincial education office will come up with standards to meet the situation of each region,” Woo said. “There will be no serious aftermath, such as forcing students to attend night classes. The purpose of this move is not for the central government to give up or delegate its duty. It is to allow school principals and regional education offices to make decisions independently.
The Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union, however, quickly criticized the plan yesterday for creating a policy that will only benefit private education industries.

Link : http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2888700
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