Posted April. 21, 2017 07:19,
Updated April. 21, 2017 07:21
At the “Programme for International Student Assessment 2015- Students Subjective Happiness Index” that the OECD has conducted for the first time, Korean students at the age of 15 ranked second from the bottom out of 48 countries. With the higher level of stress than the average of OECD members caused by examinations and test records, 75 percent of Korean students responded that they are worried about having poor test results while 69 percent expressed their concern about difficult test. The result is no surprise given that most Korean students are faced with fierce competition for college entrance examinations, giving up their time to work out and play, and studying full time.
Under the circumstances, we need to make a thorough evaluation on educational manifestos that presidential candidates have drawn up such as abrogation of special-purpose high schools, downsizing or abolition of the Education Ministry, reorganization of school system, adopting joint degree programs in national universities to see whether they could improve the quality of unsatisfactory life and education for our students. Moon Jae-in, the presidential candidate of the Minjoo Party, has promised to scrap the special-purpose high schools and introduce high school credit system while Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party has come up with revamping the school system in an effort to cultivate talented human resources bracing for the 4th Industrial Revolution. If implemented, each and every pledge could bring significant repercussion to Korean education system.
However, the only educational manifesto that has been mentioned during two debates on TV so far was the reorganization of school system to 5-5-2 suggested by Ahn. Under his manifesto, Korean students would spend five years at elementary school followed by another five years at middle and high school after which they could select between studying in colleges and having jobs and, study in accordance with their decision. While his idea is to disencumber students from 10-year of excessive competition for college entrance examinations, the Korea Education Development Institute reckons that it would cost a whopping 14 trillion Korean won (approx. 12.3 billion U.S. dollars) only to shift the beginning of an academic year from current March to September. Furthermore, revamping the school system alone cannot guarantee that it would bring about creative education and remove private education fever. Given this, those who express their concerns by saying that this could be Ahn’s equivalent to four-river refurbishment project sound reasonable.
Regardless of who is elected as our next president, the incoming government is expected to either scale down or abolish the Education Ministry. Given the ministry’s past wrongdoings such as bossing around universities with budgetary support and overusing different regulations, complete abolition appears to be reasonable but the ministry itself is only a means for implementing educational policies that political circles put forward. In fact, it is the political society that has politicized the sacred field of education with direct election system for superintendents and policy for half-tuition. How could we expect that creative and talented human resources can be nurtured when an average life expectancy is 100 years and stressed-out students happy with inconstant educational policies that last only for a presidential tenure? All presidential candidates are strongly advised to remember the basic fact that educationally advanced nations are those who guarantee the autonomy of educational institutions.