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Admissions Scandal Hits Seoul Autonomous Schools

Posted February. 26, 2010 07:23,   


About two thirds of 364 middle school graduates admitted to new autonomous private high schools in Seoul under a program for needy children are found to have violated enrollment regulations.

The number of students suspected of having broken the regulations could rise to 250 or more.

An official at the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education yesterday said the admission of up to 300 students could be deemed “problematic.” The education office will announce the result of its investigation and plan today.

Potentially, nearly six percent of the 4,277 students accepted by the private high schools, which will not receive government funding in return for the freedom to establish their own curricula, might have broken the rules.

If so, the high schools, a symbol of the Lee Myung-bak administration’s policy to diversify high school education, will see their reputations tarnished even before their launch.

The educational office could nullify the autonomous designation of certain high schools. Those high schools are subject to government review every five years for re-designation.

The designation of an autonomous school could be revoked if irregularities in admissions are found.

The education office could reassign students implicated in admissions irregularities to nearby high school. Yet one official said, “From an educational perspective, it isn’t right to do so because newly assigned students will be labeled ‘violators.’”

Principals of 13 autonomous high schools in Seoul got together at the educational office yesterday to discuss coping with the situation. An office staff member said the purpose of the gathering was to see if their student admissions were carried out properly.

There are also other suspicions that certain students fabricated paperwork submitted to university admissions officers. Seoul police say they began a preliminary investigation into the allegation after receiving a tip last month.

Police asked 76 universities across the country to hand over documents on their applicants and received materials from some 50 schools. Information that is not part of official school records need to be confirmed by the applicants themselves.

A police official said not all of them are suspects but are subject to investigation because of their potential implication in irregularities. So far, no students have been under clear suspicion or have circumstantial evidence against them.

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