South Korea’s elite high schools widened their lead over regular high schools in sending students to the country’s top university, a report showed Thursday, renewing concerns about the sagging competitiveness of the broader education system for students who belong to low and mid-income households.
Of the 17 high schools that sent 30 or more graduates to Seoul National University this year, five were autonomous private high schools and 13 others were special-purpose schools like foreign language high schools.
The number of graduates that are accepted at SNU is one of the most widely used criteria of a high school’s competence. Getting accepted to SNU requires higher scores on the Suneung ― the nationwide college entrance exam ― than any other college in the country.
None of the regular high schools, which account for 65.7 percent of the 2,318 high schools in the nation, sent more than 22 students to SNU.
In addition, only 831 of the 1,524 regular high schools sent at least one student to the prestigious university.
Other data made public by SNU showed that only 47.2 percent of its incoming freshmen were from regular high schools, a 6.2 percent drop from the year before. Incoming students from autonomous private high schools, foreign language high schools and science high schools increased by 2.8 percent, 1.5 percent and 7.1 percent, respectively.
Students from these elite high schools ― which only account for 4.5 percent of all high schools ― made up 35.8 percent of the students granted admission to SNU.
As elite high schools continued to dominate the admissions of prestigious colleges, competition to enter these top schools has intensified over the past few years.
Last year, the Education Ministry attempted to revamp the admissions system for autonomous private high schools in a bid to curtail such fierce competition by banning schools from choosing students based on middle school grades.
The popularity of these schools prevailed despite the changes, as they saw an increase in applicants in November. Parents and teachers said they believed the newly imposed interview system would only allow these schools to effectively filter out students with bad grades.
“For some regular schools, it’s hard to send even one student to SNU,” said a teacher from a high school located in Seoul. “If the government does not work to boost the competence of regular high schools, they will just be a second-rated school that only hosts students not good enough to go to special-purpose high schools.”
By Yoon Min-sik (firstname.lastname@example.org)