Some 1,492 people from civic groups, academia, and religious circles in the progressive left Monday announced a declaration of state affairs, urging the government to withdraw its plan to increase the proportion of regular selection in college admission system. “Expansion of regular selection is an inappropriate education policy that encourages students to only find a correct answer in multiple choice questions,” read the declaration. “In order to prevent education from becoming a means to inherit social status and privilege, we should stop determining the university ranking.”
Those in the progressive left should first look back on the side effects of the education policy they have been testing in past years. The proposed change in college admission system is the result of people’s deep distrust in alternative screening process, which combines academic performance with other extracurricular activities, triggered by the Cho Kuk scandal. To be sure, we need a measure that can prevent illicit admissions using parents’ connections and secure transparency and fairness in college admissions system. Blind opposition to the proposed change is not the answer.
The progressive camp has produced several progressive superintendents in the past 10 years, practically taking hold of the primary and secondary education in the country. The case in point is the introduction of Innovation School in 2009 by the then superintendent of Gyeonggi Province Kim Sang-gon with an aim to promote creativity and collaboration. The number of Innovation Schools has increased to 1,714 nationwide but their effect has not been proven. Rather, it is thought to be the culprit behind a drop in students’ academic ability. Plans to establish Innovation Schools in Seoul were met with opposition from parents and students.
The progressive left has stigmatized autonomous private high schools and special-purpose high schools as “education for the privileged” and advocated the abolition of those schools. If the demand for “excellence education” cannot be met, it could give rise to another privileged education system like the School District 8 in Gangnam. Expansion of alternative screening process has been supported by the progressives with an aim to prevent the collapse of regular high schools. But regular schools and their teachers failed to raise students’ academic performance and coach students on extracurricular activities, pushing up the demand for private education and causing illicit college admissions as a result.
All of this is the result of the progressive camp’s pushing ahead with education policies that failed to reflect the reality. They should first understand that disappointment and distrust in the progressive education is behind the growing calls for the expansion of College Scholastic Ability Test-based regular selection. Education reform should return to the essence of granting autonomy to universities and nurturing future talent. The beginning of the reform should be focused on the reality instead of ideology and reflection instead of opposition.