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Seoul Superintendent Declares War on ‘Advance Study’

Posted September. 15, 2010 11:58,   


The superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said Tuesday, “I will launch a war on advance study by staging a campaign to eradicate the student practice of advance study."

Kwak No-hyun held a news briefing on his plan, saying, "This includes the monitoring of factors that trigger advance study in the course of high school and college admissions.”

“I’ll give penalty points to students who implicitly indicate their scores on foreign language tests and performance at contests in document screening and interviews for admissions reviews for the 2011 school year,” he said. “I’ll completely rule out guidelines that demand advance study in admissions reviews by science high schools as well.”

“Today’s announcement signals the beginning of a campaign meant to root out advance study practice to be staged by the education office,” he added. “After examining factors that trigger advance study in the high school and college admissions processes, I will announce the second phase of this policy by year’s end.”

The education office sends one of the three admissions officers who attend admissions interviews at foreign language and international high schools in Seoul and plans to use such officers to monitor violations. The admissions review process will also be reviewed in a way that eradicates factors encouraging advance study beginning from the 2012 school year for Seoul Science High School, an institution for gifted students.

Additionally, the office will remove tests on students’ task implementation capacity and in-depth interviews in the course of recruiting students of academies for the gifted and talented and those of classes for the exceptional.

Instead, the plan is to ensure that students are selected solely on teachers’ assessments and recommendations and restrict the scope of questions to academic curricula through May for ninth graders in a middle school math and science contest to be hosted by the education office in next year’s first half.

Attending the news briefing was Lee Beom, 41, Kwak’s policy adviser. The reclusive Lee appeared at the event because he drafted the policy plan. Working at Kwak’s secretariat, Lee is in charge of a “campaign to eradicate advance study" and "measures to improve diverse recruitment programs and contests."

Having worked for seven years at Mega Study, a online lecturing service, Lee was a star cram school tutor who used to earn as much as 1.8 billion won (1.5 million U.S. dollars) a year. He later became an education critic and gave free online lectures for Educational Broadcasting System and the office of Seoul’s southern Gangnam district as well as writing contributing articles and giving lectures critical of private tutoring.

The private education sector seemed pessimistic over the policy plan announced at the briefing. Lee has often said, “Since I was in private education for quite some time, I can envision the responses from the private education sector.”

Nevertheless, a private education source said, “They only used the term ‘penalty points’ in the admissions review policy for special purpose high schools this time, but the new plan is no different from the previous policy that warned of disadvantages when students imply records of awards.”

Another source said, “As long as schools fail to meet the demands of students and parents, I think it’s irresponsible to push for a plan to curb private education.”