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Elite institutes oppose plan to make them public schools

June 23,2017
이미지뷰
Members of an association of parents with children attending independent private high schools hold a press conference at Ewha Girls’ High School in central Seoul on Thursday to oppose the Seoul education office’s plan to abolish the independent private high school system. [YONHAP]
Independent private high schools and foreign language high schools are outraged by a movement among some local education offices to transform them into public schools and abolish the independent private high school system altogether.

“Seoul’s education chief, Cho Hee-yeon, has in a one-manned way announced a plan to shut down independent private high schools without holding a meeting with the parents even once,” said Song Su-min, president of an association of parents with children attending independent private high schools, in a press conference at the Ewha Girls’ High School in central Seoul on Thursday. “We demand that he revoke his plan.”

Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education Superintendent Cho submitted 92 policy proposals to the Moon Jae-in administration on Tuesday, which include shutting down independent private high schools and foreign language high schools.

“There are signs of a hierarchical education system prevalent between public high schools and independent private and foreign language high schools,” Cho said in the policy proposal. “This hierarchical system is worsening the socioeconomic disharmony among the people.”

Independent private high schools are private high schools that are not funded by the government and are free to create academic curricula outside the local educational system. Because they are not funded by the government, some charge up to three times the tuition of public high schools.

Seoul has 23 independent private high schools and six foreign language high schools. Outside the capital are 23 independent private high schools and 25 foreign language high schools.

Just a day before at Ewha Girls’ High School, the association of principals of independent private high schools in Seoul had also held a press conference to voice their opposition.

“The idea that independent private high schools are encouraging a form of hierarchical education is a rumor,” said Oh Se-mok, principal of Joongdong High School in southern Seoul, in a press conference at the Ewha Girls’ High School on Wednesday. “The abolition of independent private high schools is populism. The Moon administration and Seoul’s education chief, Cho, have not consulted any of us independent private high schools before seeking to abolish the system. This is a dictatorial policy push.”

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education will be announcing on Wednesday its decision on whether to transform three independent private high schools in the city into public high schools.

Every independent private high school is subject to a local educational office’s inspection every five years. The local educational offices submit their decision to maintain the school’s independent and private status or to transform it into a public school to the Ministry of Education, to be confirmed or dismissed by the minister of education.

The Gyeonggi education office submitted in August 2014 its decision to transform Dongsan Christian High School in Ansan into a public school. It was rejected by the education minister at the time.

The Seoul education office also submitted in November 2014 its decision to transform six independent private high schools into public schools, but it was rejected by the Education Ministry.

“If the Seoul education office decides to transform at least one independent private high school into a public school in its decision on Wednesday,” Oh said, “we will be sure to fight their decision, including with litigations, too.”

The association of principals of foreign language high schools was also scheduled to hold a press conference later on Thursday evening in Seoul.

BY PARK HYUNG-SOO, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]