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[Editorial] New Crackdown on Private Education

Posted April. 25, 2009 05:39,   


The government plans to take strong measures to curb private tutoring by banning all private institutes from holding classes after 10 p.m. The measures also include strengthening afterschool classes at public schools and reforming the university entrance exam system. No one opposes a reduction of the financial burden of private tutoring amid the economic slump, which was an election pledge by President Lee Myung-bak.

All previous administrations tried to reduce private educational expenses, but none of them succeeded. Instead, such expenses have risen every year, putting a heavy burden on the middle class.

The Lee Myung-bak administration is showing its firm determination to win the “war on private education.” The public, however, apparently holds little hope due to disappointment after disappointment from previous government measures.

Several of the announced measures are questionable in their workability. The government plans to limit class hours at private institutes, but whether it can crack down on violators among the numerous institutes across the country is questionable. The policy could cause private tutoring spending to increase by pushing private lessons to the black market. Afterschool programs are not a fundamental solution but a stopgap measure because they are merely private institute classes provided by public schools. The napping of students in classes after taking late hour lessons the previous night must be corrected first to normalize public education and make anti-private tutoring measures effective.

Changing the university entrance examination system could also produce undesired consequences. Regulations on university entrance tests create a new private education market given past experience. Private institutes move swiftly to create new demand under a new admission system, and parents end up listening to what they say. Too much state intervention in the entrance examination system could also undermine the autonomy of higher education.

With the planned official announcement of the measures two to three weeks away, the government should study why previous administrations failed to bring down private education. Using regulations to crack down on private education has always failed.

A teacher evaluation system is needed to encourage competition among teachers, increase budgetary support for schools, and diversify school types. If the government fails to present substantial measures, it is doomed to failure just like its predecessors.