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Laws on Education Reform

Posted October. 01, 2010 21:56,   


Education, Science and Technology Minister Lee Joo-ho told a seminar hosted by an association for editorial writers Thursday that if the National Assembly fails to pass a bill on teacher assessment, the government will pursue the measure with a presidential decree. This shows Seoul’s determination to push ahead with the assessment system through an enforcement ordinance if necessary. Without an appropriate law, however, enforcement of the measure will prove to be difficult due to opposition from teachers and educational workers’ unions. A revision to primary and secondary education containing such a measure was submitted to parliament under the previous Roh Moo-hyun government, but was scrapped when the 17th National Assembly’s term ended. After Lee Myung-bak took office, the same bill was introduced again. Swayed by opposition from the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers` Union, however, the main opposition Democratic Party is blocking the bill’s passage.

Since the opening of the 18th National Assembly, the parliamentary committee on education, science and technology has passed just 36 out of 364 bills introduced through last year, or a meager passage rate of 9.9 percent. A measure to turn Seoul National University into a corporation was also pursued under the Roh administration. The drive failed at the time due to disagreement inside the university. The school has finally reached a consensus but the Democratic Party is hindering the drive. With little progress, the country’s top university suffered the humiliation of being left off the list of the world’s top 100 universities this year.

A law on private schools revised under the Roh administration is a typical example of an evil statute. The law has undermined the autonomy of private schools by requiring one fourth of school directors to be figures recommended by groups outside of the board of directors. After failing to block the bill’s passage due to its minority status, the then opposition Grand National Party promised to reverse the law if it took power. Despite gaining a parliamentary majority, the now ruling Grand National Party has spent more than a half of the administration’s term without taking action on the matter. Even ordinary bills that cause no ideological confrontation are languishing in parliament. A case in point is a bill on finance and accounting for national universities to reform their accounting processes and make them more efficient. The Democratic Party is opposing the bill, calling it the groundwork to turn national universities into corporations.

A bill to encourage private universities to conduct restructuring by returning the remaining assets to the founder when a university closes its doors is also languishing. The only bill passing parliament under the incumbent government is one on repayment of school loans after employment, which is considered a populist law. If the Democratic Party wants to present itself as a party for the people, it should cooperate in enacting education reform laws instead of currying favor with the teachers’ union and opposing the government’s every move.

The ruling party is also to blame for its inability and irresponsibility. Bills should be passed under a consensus between the ruling and opposition parties, but since it is impossible to reach an agreement, putting bills to a vote is inevitable. A country unable to enact education reform laws cannot say it wants to develop itself through education. If education fails, Korea cannot achieve a better future.