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[Editorial] Next Gov`t Needs to Overhaul Education System

[Editorial] Next Gov`t Needs to Overhaul Education System

Posted December. 12, 2007 03:03,   


The presidential debate broadcast last night highlighted the candidates’ differing stances on education policy. Grand National Party candidate Lee Myung-bak pledged that if elected he would grant universities increased discretion to select students in a phased manner. Chung Dong-young, the United New Democratic Party candidate, on the other hand, said that he would abolish the college entrance exam, instead focusing the college admission process on students’ academic records. This indicates that Lee wants to give more autonomy to universities, while Chung plans to strengthen the current standardized system.

The grade-category system, which aroused great confusion in this year’s college entrance exam, was the proposal of Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union, which was accepted by the current administration. Initially, the proposal suggested a total of five grade-categories or the conducting of a qualification exam to aid in student selection. It was finally modified to include nine grade-categories.

Some candidates’ pledge, that they will abolish the college entrance exam, is a very much populist and dangerous idea.

The grade-category system was obviously devised by the KTEWU to further strengthen the current standardized education system. The new system leaves few ways to correctly evaluate the academic performance of students in the top bracket, which would lead to the standardization of universities in terms of academic achievement.

South Korea has yet to produce a university ranking of 50 or above on the world college league table. With the new system advocated by the KTEWU it will be difficult for South Korean universities to close the gap, even with European universities which are already behind the competition on the world stage.

The current administration’s policy to reduce the number of special-purpose schools, such as foreign language high schools, was also highly influenced by the teacher’s union.

The government’s education policy, based on the principle of equality, has produced a strong side-effect. Having been disappointed by the poor quality of the nation’s public education, a great number of parents now send their children abroad to study. The number of elementary or secondary students who study abroad has reached 30,000 and the number of university students studying overseas has surpassed 210,000. Annual private education spending of South Korean households is around 30 trillion, similar to the annual public education budget of this country. Those in the low income bracket who cannot afford the excessive costs of private-school education are the biggest victims.

The amendment of the Private School Act, led by the KTEWU and the Uri Party, only succeeded in bringing about conflict in the field; not to mention the continued debate over its constitutionality. Leaving a deep scar, the act has now been modified, though partially. Interestingly, the Teacher Evaluation system, of which 80% of citizens approved, has now been left hanging due to the union’s tenacious opposition.

With the current education system advocated by the KTEWU, the nation has taken a backward step. We have paid too much to now realize this result from the last five years. The new administration needs to restore the competitive edge of the nation’s education system through a thorough overhaul, infused with the KTEWU’s educational philosophy.