A protest against a proposed bill that allows private institutions to operate public kindergartens was held in front of the National Assembly building in Yeouido on Friday. The protest was staged by a group of parents and public kindergarten teachers who are against contracting out the operation of public kindergartens to private institutions. The number of participants at the protest was estimated by the organizer to be about 1,000.
The protesters demanded to withdraw the revised bill on Early Childhood Education proposed on May 15 by Rep. Park Chan-dae of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea. The revised bill states that the management of public kindergartens shall be contracted out to private institutions, public schools, and others who can contribute to the attainment of public interest. The subject of the revised bill is those private kindergartens, which were purchased by the Ministry of Education and have been turned into public ones. The revised bill is practically “contract-out legislation” by the Ministry of Education.
The ruling party says if all public kindergartens are operated by the central or provincial governments, there would be challenges, such as taking care of the children for longer hours and operating school buses. But it is a trick to achieve the government’s national agenda of sending 40 percent of preschoolers to public kindergartens. Establishing new public kindergartens would require a huge budget whereas buying the existing private kindergartens and converting them into public ones would be much easier to achieve the goal. As of late last year, 25.5 percent of preschoolers in Korea went to public kindergartens.
People against the revised bill point out that once the bill is passed, the accounting fraud at private kindergartens that hit the country last year could repeat at public kindergartens. There would also be an issue of fairness as private kindergarten teachers, who did not pass the teacher certification examination, will be hired by public kindergarten. The Education Ministry announced that it would gather opinions from kindergarten teachers during the revision process.