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[Opinion] Bad Schools

Posted November. 08, 2007 03:03,   


Education originally started with private tutoring. In ancient Rome, the upper class hired Greek tutors to educate their children. In traditional Korean noble families, fathers taught their children themselves or asked esteemed teachers to teach their children. However, poor or ordinary people were hardly able to receive any kind of education. However, the polarization between the rich and the poor took a dramatic turn in the 18th Century, thanks to the industrial revolution. As mass production required a large number of educated people, educational opportunities for ordinary people started to open up.

About only 25 percent of Koreans received formal education as of 1945, when Korean regained independence. A majority of the people were left out of the educational system. Considering that the first modern schools were the Paejae School, founded in 1885, and the Ewha School, founded the following year, the history of Korea’s modern education is only about 120 years old. Moreover, it has been only a few decades since formal education became available to the general public.

An increased opportunity to receive formal education provided hope to many people. In fact, many children of poor families in Korea excelled at study and were able to change their social status from poor to rich. However, things have changed due to the government’s persistent school equalization policy, which eliminated competition between secondary schools. Although many provincial colleges are on the verge of closing down because they don’t have enough new students, secondary schools have nothing to worry about. The “kind government” sends new students to each middle school and high school and subsidizes the majority of those schools’ budgets. Meanwhile, there is no disadvantage to providing poor quality of education. It is human nature that we opt for an easier, less painstaking alternative.

Those who cannot afford to provide alternative education have no choice but to lament their circumstances. Without a doubt, Korea’s education is facing a crisis. New York City has decided to shut down schools where students’ academic performances are poor. Although it is now also time for Korea to differentiate between “bad schools” and “good schools,” the government is desperately trying to destroy special purpose high schools, which are known as “good schools” among parents. The incompetence of schools, which are responsible for providing opportunities for future generations, is a sin.

Hong Chan-sik, Editorial Writer, chansik@donga.com