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[Editorial] More Schools, Less Regulation

Posted December. 23, 2005 03:00,   


The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development has disclosed its plan to increase the number of independent private schools amid growing resistance from private schools against the amendment of the private school bill.

Kim Jin-pyo, the deputy prime minister and minister of Education and Human Resources Development, said in a meeting with Ri Long-hoon, president of the Federation of Catholic Educational Foundations and bishop of Suwon diocese, “we plan to increase the number of independent private schools up to 20. We are hopeful that the religious community will take charge of its operation.”

The government’s new move seems designed to appease the private educational foundation and the religious community. The government should take this opportunity to expand the base of independent private schools in a prompt and substantive manner to strengthen the nation’s public education.

In this era of unlimited global competition and knowledge-based societies, nurturing talented human resources is central to enhancing national competitiveness. A nation or people can’t survive in this era when they insist on a standardized educational framework that has no regard for individual differences and suppresses the potential of the best and brightest. It’s a relief to see that the government, albeit belatedly, has recognized problems in the standardized system, and that it has decided to address the problems by increasing the number of independent private schools.

The Korea Educational Development Institute (KEDI) thinks that independent private schools, which were introduced to the nation four years ago, have been successful. Talented students, who didn’t stand out in the standardized educational system, now show remarkably improved academic achievements at independent private schools. It is a result of positive stimuli and competition: some of the benefits of quality education. No doubt, both parents and students are highly satisfied with the results.

In addition, founders of independent private schools take responsibility for school finance, resulting in transparent school operations. This has given us a way to realize private education reform.

Koreans want educational diversity. In a survey conducted by the Korean Federation of Teachers’ Associations, 55 percent of respondents turned out to be in support of more independent private schools.

The Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union is opposed to the expansion of independent private schools, calling them “schools for the privileged” that undermine the standardized educational system. However, converting scores out of 2,000 high schools nationwide to private schools won’t lead to the collapse of the system. Only a handful of private schools can finance their operations without financial assistance from the government.

These days, special schools such as science-oriented schools and foreign language schools coexist with the standardized educational system. In the meantime, however, some foundations that want to run independent private schools plan to offer special education to students who are lagging behind.

The argument against the advanced education doesn’t make sense in the era of globalization, especially when many high-income earners send their children abroad for education in foreign private schools.

Of course, the government should show children from low-income families more consideration. In this regard, independent private schools can embrace the recommendation of the Korea Educational Development Institute that students from low-income families should be given precedence for scholarship that is offered to 15 percent of the total enrollment.

‘Independent’ should mean what it is supposed to. The independent private schools are heavily regulated by the government. Advanced countries make sure they offer extensive autonomy to private schools in areas of student selection, curriculum and tuition, even if the schools in question do not receive financial support from the government. Deregulation is needed to ensure the maximum impact from more independent private schools.

If the administration and the ruling party believe that they can have a revised private school bill by proposing the expansion of independent private schools, they are misguided. The revised private school bill should be reworked with the plan to increase the number of independent private schools.