by JAMES S. KIM
The South Korean Education Ministry overturned a decision by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (SMOE) to strip six private high schools of their elite status, according to the Korea Herald.
Seoul’s education chief Cho Hi-yeon announced on Oct. 31 that the schools had failed to accept SMOE’s offer to forfeit their right to admit students based on test scores as a step towards “educational equality.”
The Education Ministry condemned the move, calling his decision an “abuse of power,” responding this week by citing a law that if “a head of an autonomous government body makes an order that is illegal or is against the public interest, the relevant minister can cancel or suspend it.”
This is reportedly the latest in a standoff between the ministry and the Seoul education office over the issue of autonomous private schools, which maintain their own curriculum and collect higher tuition fees than other schools. They will still be able to retain these privileges, among others.
Both sides have claimed to have final say on the matter, with SMOE vowing to take the issue to the Supreme Court.
The autonomous school system was first established under President Lee Myung-bak to encourage competition among schools. South Korea has about 50 autonomous schools nationwide, about half of them in Seoul. These “elite” schools have the ability to select students based on test scores and charging higher tuition fees instead of relying on government support. They’ve often been criticized for running curriculums focusing on college entrance exams and negatively influencing public education.
Photo courtesy of Yonhap