Updated February. 20, 2014 04:30
A parliamentary standing committee passed Tuesday a bill that prohibits students from advanced learning, meaning students take courses beyond their regular academic schedule. If this bill, which is based on one of the presidents campaign pledges, is passed by the National Assembly, it will be executed from August this year. Once taking effect, essay tests for college entrance cannot go beyond the level of regular high school curriculum, and specialized high schools, such as foreign language high schools and science high schools, cannot make their tests exceeding the level required by public education. And private academies, hakwon, cannot advertise advanced learning.
If evaluations on advanced learning are prohibited in the high school and college admission process, excessive dependence on private education will be reduced and overheated competition to enter specialized high schools will also be eased to some degree. However, skeptics project the law will not have much impact on reducing private education. For mathematics, the line between advanced learning and intensive learning is not clear-cut. Students will go to hakwon to learn things not taught in school. In case of English, people are passionate about advanced learning due to some practical reason rather than getting good scores in school. Parents think their kids should start learning English at an early age to speak the language fluently.
Educational policies developed by the government and political circle have focused on reducing households spending on private education. In a situation where the number of privileged colleges is limited and students who want to get admitted the schools are too many, competition is inevitable. Prohibiting advanced learning and making tests easy may cause other side effects. Since the college scholastic ability test has already become easier than the past, students are solving same problems again and again not to make any mistake.
Korean education often requires students to study things that are useless. With rote learning, excessive focus on theories and problem solving in Korean, English and Math, and the atmosphere where any ideas other than the definite answer are denied, creative talent for the 21st century cannot be nurtured.
Reducing private education cannot be the goal of educational policies. Financial Times said in its column titled Let schools compete and students will be winners that one policy that can increase general standards of accomplishment while reducing inequality is injecting competition into the system. In order to draw a big picture and enhance the quality of public education that can nurture competitive individuals for the convergence economy, competition should be brought into the school system. Debate and inquiry class models having adopted by some independent private high schools need to be considered for public education. Whether we live in the era of industrialization or information and technology, education is the top investment priority.