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[Editorial] Education minister replaced again

Posted January. 29, 2001 15:50,   


The head of the nation`s education ministry has been replaced once again. With the presidential appointment of Han Wan-Sang as deputy premier-education and human resources minister, the leadership of the education ministry has changed six times since the inauguration of the Kim Dae-Jung government.

It is a matter of great concern that the education minister has been so replaced frequently, especially in light of the fact that the nation`s educational blueprint should be more consistently promoted than any other state policy. Such a frequent ministerial change attests to the nation`s volatile educational administration.

Of course, the latest ministerial reshuffle is somewhat different in nature from the previous ones. This is to say that in accordance with the revision of the Government Organization Law, the Education Ministry was expanded and reorganized into the Ministry of Education and Human Resources. However, it is to be noted that the government had long planned to upgrade the rank of the education minister to the level of deputy prime minister, notably before the appointment of Lee Don-Hee to the top post. Replacing the education minister simply because the law changed is hardly understandable.

Lee, who only took office in August last year, was familiar with educational affairs and his methods of implementing policy earned some praise. He worked hard and efficiently in terms of providing a new framework for the college and university entrance examination system, which goes into effect in 2002, establishing the across-the-board enforcement of compulsory education for middle school students and finding ways of strengthening the competitive edge of school teachers.

The abrupt replacement of the education minister raises concerns that the implementation of existing policies, which is now in high gear, will run into obstacles. Some ministry officials were complaining that they would have to waste a lot of time providing data for briefings to their new boss.

Although the newly appointed education minister is said to have an innovative and creative mind, there are also those who took a critical view of his capabilities and leadership qualities. In particular, it is hard to see him as having expertise in the latest research on the human brain, educational resources development and primary, middle and high school affairs.

From this standpoint, there are those who feel the change was aimed at giving the vice premiership to a specific person. Since Han was deputy premier-unification minister under the Kim Young-Sam regime, he already had a relationship with the incumbent government.

Now the nation`s education sector is facing a crisis. Public education is in upheaval and the teaching profession is seeing a lot of turbulence and students are confused with the drastic changes in the college entrance exam system.

Under these circumstances, the frequent replacement of the education minister and the consequent educational policy changes are feared to cast a dark cloud on the future of education in Korea. The position of chief educational administrator ought to be more stable than that of any other minister.