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Gyeonggi high schools are to lose special status from 2020

June 16,2017
Foreign language and autonomous private high schools in Gyeonggi, the heart of elite high school education in Korea, will lose their special status starting from 2020, Gyeonggi’s education chief Lee Jae-jung declared.

The measure will affect eight foreign language high schools and two autonomous private high schools in the province, or around 7,800 students currently enrolled.

Lee, superintendent of the Gyeonggido Office of Education, a liberal who served as unification minister under the former Roh Moo-hyun administration, said the decision would help “normalize” high school education. “We must abolish policies that stratify and rank schools,” Lee said Tuesday in a press conference.

The superintendent added he would make sure students who are attending those schools will not suffer any disadvantages during the transition period, but did not specify how or what those downsides could be.

By law, the special-purpose high schools go through an evaluation process every five years by the provincial education office, which then decides whether to reassign the coveted status. In this case, Lee said he would gradually prevent reauthorization.

The decision will be finalized if the Ministry of Education officially agrees, which case is likely in the current Moon Jae-in administration because Moon vowed during election season to turn all foreign language and special purpose high schools across the country into regular high schools.

It remains to be seen how Lee’s latest announcement will affect Seoul, which is home to six foreign language and 23 autonomous private high schools, or 38 percent of the nation’s 31 foreign language and 46 autonomous private high schools.

A local newspaper reported Thursday that Seoul’s education authority has already decided to follow Gyeonggi’s example.

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education is led by Superintendent Cho Hee-yeon, a major liberal who was a vocal opponent of the state-authored history textbooks last year.

An official at the Seoul education office who spoke with the JoongAng Ilbo said internal discussions were ongoing.

Cho might make an announcement on June 28, nearly two weeks from now, when his office decides whether to allow one foreign language and three autonomous private high schools in Seoul to keep their status for another five years.

Meanwhile, in Gyeonggi, elite schools are expressing displeasure.

An official at Hankuk Academy of Foreign Studies said the institute would “never accept” the Gyeonggi education authority’s announcement and will soon devise a countermeasure after discussing the matter with parents.

BY KIM MIN-WOOK, CHUN IN-SUNG [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]