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[Editorial] School Choice Debacle

Posted December. 05, 2009 09:31,   


Korea in less than 10 days will adopt the high school choice system, under which middle school students can choose which high schools they will attend. The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education abruptly lowered yesterday the scope of high school selection in the wards of Gangnam and Yangcheon. The system will allow Seoul high schools to recruit 20 percent of their students through application. Forty percent will be recruited by lottery and the remaining 40 percent will be students living in the vicinity of the schools. When the results of mock recruiting showed high school applications concentrated in the wealthy areas of Gangnam and Mok-dong, however, the education office said it will have schools recruit 80 percent from neighboring areas.

The change will eventually benefit students living in Gangnam and Mok-dong, where economic and educational environments are better than other areas. According to the mock recruiting results, 80 percent of students will go to the schools of their choice. The situation in Gangnam and Yangcheon will be different, however. Controversy will arise since certain wealthy areas will be excluded from a system designed to enhance the quality of public education.

The education office indicated receiving pressure from residents in the two areas to be excluded from the system, saying, “We’ve received many calls from parents in the areas protesting the system.” It deserves criticism because it has surrendered to opposition from the wealthy areas, depriving less privileged students of the opportunity to get a good education in areas with better schools.

Worse, the education office has attempted to hide the change but reluctantly held a news conference to apologize in the face of media exposure. This was an inappropriate way to handle something like this. The decision by the office has deceived most parents and students and should be corrected by all means. City educational authorities should also be held responsible for the situation.

This regrettable incident occurred at the inopportune time when the post of Seoul school superintendent has remained vacant due to the resignation of Kong Jung-tack. The change to the system will cause a huge backlash from parents. Whether the Education, Science and Technology Ministry and the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education can resolve this debacle is questionable. Sticking to the original system conceived three years ago is the solution.