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[Opinion] Exaggerated Education Pledges

Posted December. 13, 2007 03:07,   


“I will reduce private education costs by half,” says GNP candidate Lee Myeong-bak. “I will increase the number of teachers by 100,000,” says independent Lee Hoe-chang. “I will double the number of teachers,” says Moon Kook-hyun from the minority Create Korea party.

Those are just some of the eye-popping pledges being made by this year’s presidential candidates.

Aristotle argued, “Simple logic is most persuasive when addressing the mass public.” However, one wonders how much time the candidates spent to draw up these easy-to-understand promises that contain words like “half,” and “double.”

It costs the government 35 million won a year to hire one new teacher. Employment of 100,000 new teachers will need an additional annual budget of 3.5 trillion won. Doubling Korea’s 360,000 school teachers to 720,000 will cost the government 12.6 trillion won annually. This year’s education budget is 32 trillion won and next year’s is 35 trillion won, according to the government’s plan. To fulfill the presidential candidates’ election pledges, higher taxes will be inevitable.

Due to low birth rates, the number of elementary school students is expected to drop 30 percent in 2012. That means the authorities should cut down on educational employment to prevent a surplus of teachers.

In a TV debate on Monday, some candidates once again indulged in the same kind of simple logic. When Create Korea candidate Moon said he would increase the education budget to 70 trillion won, independent Lee upped the figure to 80 trillion won in an attempt not to be overtaken by Moon. A double increase in education budget means decreases in other expenses. GNP frontrunner Lee’s pledge to halve private education costs sounds also dubious because it is not feasible. In a country where school education fails to fulfill the education demands of the era of information and knowledge, it’s natural for people to become highly dependent on private education.

Chung Dong-young, the majority UNDP candidate, said he would eliminate college entrance examinations, but he made a contradictory promise of establishing 15 world-class universities. No admissions exam means no competition for universities, eventually dropping the overall quality of all universities. In a system of no competition, producing world-class universities is out of the question. Russia’s former leader Nikita Khrushchev once said, “Politicians promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.” Aristotle pointed out that the ignorant easily buy into simply worded speeches. To avoid being deceived by simple rhetoric, voters should pay more attention to and carefully read each candidate’s pledges.