|Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae, second from right, announces the ministry's decision to strip special-purpose high schools of their status in 2025, during a press briefing at Government Complex Seoul, Thursday. /Yonhap|
By Bahk Eun-ji
Elite high schools will be stripped of their status in 2025, the education ministry said, Thursday.
The decision follows the Moon Jae-in administration's basic stance of abolishing the elite school system to secure fairness in public education. It also comes amid criticism that these schools have become a shortcut for children of affluent families to enter prestigious universities, instead of their original goal of providing tailored and diverse education to outstanding students.
According to the plan, autonomous private, foreign language and global high schools will lose their special status all at once in 2025.
But science, art and physical education high schools will remain as the government views they are run according to the original purposes of their establishment.
"We take seriously public concerns that disparity in education has led to disparity in social class," Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said in a press briefing at the Government Complex Seoul.
"The elite schools, which educate only 4 percent of the nation's total high school student population, have advantageous positions in selecting students, and charge high tuition, which has led to people ranking schools and an increase in competition and private tutoring to increase students' chances of being admitted to such schools and caused a sense of deprivation to students of ordinary schools."
She added curricula of foreign language and autonomous schools have been focused on college admissions rather than their original purposes.
While those elite schools will be transformed into regular ones in 2025 without further license renewal process, those who enter the schools before 2025 will be guaranteed their status and curricula as special-purpose schools.
For these changes, the ministry will revise the relevant enforcement ordinance, which does not require National Assembly approval.
Instead of abolishing the elite system, the government plans to strengthen the competitiveness of regular high schools by injecting 2 trillion won ($1.72 billion) over the next five years to develop diverse education programs.
This is also a preliminary step toward a new credit system which will be adopted fully in 2025. Under the new system, sophomores and seniors are allowed to choose elective subjects. The ministry expects the new system to resolve excessive competition over college admissions, and put more focus on each student's aptitude and career path.
Although there are supporters of the government's move, it also drew immediate backlash, especially from the teachers and parents of those elite high schools.
An association of principals of autonomous private high schools in Seoul denounced the announcement immediately after it came out.
"Under the name of fair education, the government is trying to annihilate autonomous high schools, which have dedicated themselves to diverse education," they said in a statement.
Parents of foreign language and global high schools also demanded the government retract the decision, Wednesday.
"The schools were set up to complement uniform education. The students chose these schools within the boundary of public education according to their talents and aptitudes, but are mistaken that they are privileged," they said in a statement.