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Private Education Confession

Posted December. 21, 2009 14:31,   


The Education, Science and Technology Ministry from next year wants to require applicants to foreign language high schools to specify their experience in private education, such as attending academic institutes or receiving private tutoring. To be specific, the ministry seeks to add a section in an applicant’s statement of purpose and teacher recommendations to more full describe private education experiences. Aware of the criticism that private education including admissions consulting will not shrink despite reform in foreign language high schools, the ministry intends to discourage students and parents from relying on private education with the new measure.

A survey in May was conducted of 2,882 students from 30 foreign language high schools nationwide by the civic group World without Private Education. The results found that 84.4 percent of all students and 94.6 percent of students at foreign language high schools in the Seoul metropolitan area attended an institute specifically designed to help them enter foreign language high schools. Nevertheless, it is difficult to determine whether overseas experience should be counted as private or public education. Given that most foreign language high school students have received private education in one form or another, the measure will not only hurt students’ feelings but also make a mockery of the Korean educational system in the eyes of the world.

Since the entrance exams of foreign language high schools deal with questions that can hardly be answered with regular public school education alone, an applicant who has no private education experience is likely to be either a genius or a liar. Under such circumstances, applicants will face a dilemma. If they specify their private education experience, it could put them at a disadvantage. If they lie, however, that will go against their conscience. It will be simply unethical to force students into a situation where they are obliged to lie. It is also doubtful whether admissions officers can verify each applicant’s private education experience. Private education has brought many negative side effects in Korean society, but it is unwise to penalize hardworking students who attend academic institutes.

If a student who lied about his or her private education experience in the application gets admitted, a dispute over fairness is likely to erupt over students who were disadvantaged by specifying their private education experience. If an unsuccessful applicant releases the truth about a successful competitor’s private education experience later, the school will find it challenging to cancel the latter’s admission. It will prove more problematic if such a revelation is made much later into the school year. Foreign language high schools will select all of their students through the admissions officer system from next year. If an admissions officer wants to know more about a student’s independent studying capability, asking in the interview is enough.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)