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Parents resist plan to end elite schools

June 28,2017
About 90 parents whose children are attending 30 private foreign language high schools voiced opposition to the local government plan to abolish the independent private high school and foreign language high school system altogether.

“The government must revoke its plans to abolish foreign language and international high schools immediately,” the parents chanted together in the auditorium of the Ewha Girls’ Foreign Language High School in central Seoul on Tuesday. If the administration changes, then it changes, but why do the parents have to bear the brunt of sudden changes in educational policies?” said Lee Soo-hyun, mother of a sophomore at Hanyoung Foreign Language High School in eastern Seoul.

There are 31 foreign language high schools in Korea, of which 25 are located outside of Seoul. There are 23 independent private high schools in Seoul and 23 outside of Seoul.

Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education Superintendent Cho Hee-yeon submitted policy proposals to the Moon Jae-in administration last week that included shutting down independent private high schools and foreign language high schools, due to “signs of a hierarchical education system” between public and private high schools, in his words.

Every independent private and foreign language 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 transform it into a public school to the Ministry of Education, to be confirmed or dismissed by the minister of education.

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education is expected to announce today whether it will maintain the independent and private status of five private middle and high schools including the Seoul Foreign Language High School.

An association of parents with children attending independent private high schools held a press conference to voice their opposition to Cho’s plan last week. An association of principals of independent private high schools in Seoul also held a similar press conference last week.

Cho said in an interview with Yonhap on Tuesday that the focus of the plan “is not to abolish the private high school system but to strengthen the public high school system.”

Cho’s two sons graduated from foreign language high schools.

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