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Busan school to lose autonomous status: City

June 28,2019
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Chun Jeong-suk, chief of the education support section of the Busan Metropolitan City Office of Education, announces on Thursday that the office will revoke the autonomous status of Haeundae High School. [NEWS1]
The Busan Metropolitan City Office of Education announced on Thursday that it plans to revoke the autonomous status of Haeundae High School (HHS), the only autonomous private high school in the southern port city.

“We will go ahead with the next step to revoke Haeundae High School’s designation as an autonomous private high school,” said an employee of the Busan education office. “The school scored less than the passing score of 70 [in its assessment by the local education office].”

The school received a score of 54.5 on the assessment.

Autonomous private high schools maintain financial independence from the government and in return are granted more freedom in picking students, creating their curriculum and charging tuition.

In order for autonomous private high schools to maintain their autonomous status, schools must score a minimum of 70 points out of 100 in their assessment by local education offices. The assessment follows a guideline provided by the Ministry of Education, and local education offices can choose to follow it or make changes.

This year, changes were made to the assessment of autonomous private high schools by local education offices. The education office in Busan evaluates autonomous private high schools’ ability to provide sufficient educational support to students based on 31 indexes divided into six categories, which are in line with the guidelines provided by the education ministry.

HHS faced a stricter assessment compared to last year, as this year’s assessment has an additional two indexes that evaluate the amount of effort the school puts into improving classes and whether the school is fair in admitting transfer students. Higher weight was given to the categories of school management, curriculum and the assessment by local education offices. On the other hand, the importance of parent and student opinions on the assessment was reduced to prevent biased opinions from changing a school’s results. The highest score that schools can get from students and parents is eight points, a drop from the 12-point maximum score in 2018.

HHS is the third autonomous private high school this year to fail the local education office’s standards in their assessment of whether they can maintain their autonomy. Sangsan High School in Jeonju, North Jeolla, and Dongsan Christian High School in Ansan, Gyeonggi, may also lose their autonomous status.

For HHS’ autonomous status to be revoked, the Busan Metropolitan City Office of Education will need confirmation by the education minister, which would be the final step in the revocation process. If the education minister decides to revoke the school’s autonomous status, the autonomous private high school will become public.

The decision is part of a larger movement by the progressive Moon Jae-in administration to scrap autonomous private high schools across the nation. It hopes to achieve what it describes as equality for all students in education and competition.

Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said Monday during a press conference that she plans on eliminating Korea’s autonomous private high schools on the grounds that they create an excessively competitive educational environment.

“Autonomous private high schools were created to give students a chance [for] diverse and creative education,” said Yoo. “The competition to get into universities has intensified [to the point where it] starts with children in elementary schools, which resulted in distorting the educational system.”

The parents of HHS students said they will fight back by submitting administrative litigation if HHS has its autonomous status revoked. If HHS loses its autonomous status, it will become a public high school starting in 2020.

BY LEE EUN-JI, JUNG MYUNG-SUK [jung.myungsuk@joongang.co.kr]