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Elections Affecting School Policies

Posted March. 30, 2006 07:58,   


School district expansion, which will allow students residing outside of Gangnam (one of the three most affluent districts in Seoul) to attend schools in the area, was included in follow-up measures to the “August 31 real estate measures,” according to a government and Uri Party announcement, causing great confusion.

Lawmakers in the Finance and Economy Committee, and Construction and Transportation Committee who are sensitive about the local elections coming up in May, slipped the information to the media.

But it ended up being “much ado about nothing” as grouping the school districts together is drawing opposition from even the ruling party, and the education department is denying it examined it.

Uri Party lawmaker Lee Kye-ahn, who first suggested the expansion of school districts last August, proposed a revisal of the education bill that would tie Seoul up into one school district on March 29.

However, criticism that “Lee is proposing the alteration of the school districts because as he is running for the office of Seoul mayor, he is aware of Dongjak District, which is near the Gangnam school district,” is coming at him from both inside and outside of Uri Party.

The ruling party’s real estate policy planners deny having discussed such a bill, saying, “I have never heard of such a thing.”

Lee Kang-rae, in charge of Uri Party’s real estate policies, said, “There is nothing to say,” and displayed his displeasure by saying, “Confirm it with the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development.” Another party policy maker commented, “It seems the presidential office and the government have made up a task force, and our party was contacted later on.”

Education Authorities Confused-

The Ministry of Education, and the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (SEN) also showed perplexity at this new proposal.

The Ministry of Education announced, “We have never discussed policies about changes in the school district with the Uri Party. We are taking no measures other than the original object of increasing the selection of schools.”

The ministry added, “Alterations in the school group are the jurisdiction of a school superintendent, and currently the SEN has requested an investigation into the policy. Whether this will be carried into effect will be announced early next year, after going through plenty of public hearings and preparations.”

The SEN also said, “There are no specific plans on how to go about the school grouping,” and merely explained that for the expansion of school selection, the following projects are underway: The establishment of a new science high school in Gung-dong, Guro District in March of 2008; the alteration of a Seoul science high school to a special science education school; and a new public-run revolutionary school introduced under the policies of the ministry of education.

A plan to alter the current school group system from 11 regionally divided groups to five to seven groups is being proposed by the ruling party. This allows students to first apply for the school they want, and then be assigned by a lottery system.

In that case, areas close to the Gangnam school district, such as parts of Dongjak District, Gwanak District, Seongdong District and Gwangjin District could be adjusted to belong to the Gangnam group.

However, as the selection of schools gets wider, it will take students longer to get to school, and resistance is expected from residents of Gangnam under the circumstances that a student from Gangnam is assigned to a school outside of Gangnam.

“Don’t Use Education for Elections”-

The Korean Federation of Teachers’ Associations stated today, “With the elections coming up, political moves toward educational problems should be stopped.”

The Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union also said, “Educational matters shouldn’t be brought up as the subordinate concepts of real estate matters, and in trying to stabilize real estate prices, we may ruin education.”