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Big Reorganization Set for Seoul High Schools

Posted September. 03, 2008 09:39,   


The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education announced yesterday a plan to reorganize the city’s 11 high school districts to 31 districts consisting of three groups: one single district, 11 ordinary districts and 19 integrated districts.

The reorganization will drastically change the way students in Seoul enter high school. The current system has been used since 1974.

When the new system takes effect from the 2010 school year, students can choose which high school they attend through three steps, with each stage to involve a different district.

In the first step, students can pick any school in Seoul because all high schools based in the capital are grouped into the “single” district.

In the second, students choose from 11 “ordinary districts” identical to existing school districts. So each district is controlled by its own education office. For instance, the Gangnam District Office of Education is in charge of the Gangnam school district covering Gangnam and Seocho wards.

The list broadens to 19 “integrated school districts” in the third stage, including those combining two adjacent districts, such as Gangnam-Gangdong or Gangnam-Dongjak, in addition to the existing 11 districts. The Gangnam and Gangdong districts are run as an integrated district by exchanging students in the event of student shortages and surpluses in each district.

Thirty to 40 percent of the students are admitted to one of the two high schools they choose in the first stage. This allows students living south of the Han River to attend high schools north of the river and vice versa, something which has been forbidden since the collapse of the Seongsu Bridge in 1994.

In the second stage, 30 to 40 percent of the students will go to one of the two schools they select within the school district they live in.

Students must pick different schools in each stage, but if the schools they choose in the first step are in the district where they live, they can choose the same schools in the second stage.

Those who fail to be admitted to schools they choose in the first and second stages will go to the third stage, which will select their schools via computer balloting.

Though distance is the first consideration in the last stage, the education office will also consider schools that students selected in the first and second stages.

“The school allocation system now forces students to attend schools selected by computer balloting regardless of students’ wishes,” said a city education official. “This system doesn’t permit students to pick the schools they want to attend. That’s the reason for overhauling the district system.”

High school districts in Seoul started with six groups in 1974 -- one collective district and five ordinary districts. The number expanded to eight in the 1980s, giving rise to the “Gangnam 8 district,” or a school district where children from the wealthy attended. This expanded to 11 districts in 1998.

The city education office will hold a public hearing on the plan by Sept. 18 and send it to the city education committee for deliberation.

Upon approval from the committee, the new plan will take effect in September next year and will apply to students entering high school in March 2010.

When the reorganization plan is finalized, the city education office will announce next month the detailed admission plan for 2010, including the ratio of students admitted in each stage.