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Seoul to unveil evaluation results on elite schools next week

The Seoul education office will reveal the results of an evaluation on autonomous private high schools next Tuesday, an official said Thursday, a move expected to spark further feuds with members of the schools and the government.

“We will announce the results on the 14 autonomous private high schools in Seoul around July 29,” a high-ranking official from the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said.

The results will reflect both the government-initiated evaluation and the second evaluation launched by Seoul education superintendent Cho Hi-yeon, which the autonomous schools said were “rushed and unfair.”

Schools that receive an “inadequate” rating on the evaluation will be stripped of privileges as a de facto elite school, in which they are granted leeway over curriculum in exchange for not receiving government subsidies. They are also allowed to handpick their students based on interviews.

The SMOE official said some autonomous high schools would receive “inadequate” ratings, but declined to comment on whether the results would be reflected in the second semester of this year.

Conflict over the system was foreshadowed in last month’s local election, when progressives took charge of 13 of 17 education offices across the country.

Since taking office, Cho and other superintendents labelled “progressives” have been laying the groundwork to abolish the controversial schools in their bid to eradicate disparities in learning opportunities for students.

He has said he is mulling whether to cancel the autonomous schools’ right to interview and pick students, the decision on which will also be announced Tuesday.

Earlier this week, the Gyeonggi Education Office took measures to turn one of its elite high schools into a regular one, saying it received subpar ratings in its evaluation. The decision caused an uproar from the parents of students attending the school.

Some 2,000 parents whose children attend autonomous private high schools will gather in front of the Bosingak Bell in Jung-gu, central Seoul, on Friday to protest the education offices’ move to abolish these schools.

The Education Ministry is also expected to present challenges for the education chiefs looking to end the hotly disputed system. The ministry already objected to Cho’s proposition to take away the schools’ right to interview students, saying such a decision should be made on the ministerial level.

The government and Cho remain at odds over the interpretation of a law that mandates education chiefs consult with the government before cancelling the designation of autonomous private high schools. Cho said the law does not specify that government’s permission is needed, but the ministry said its consent is mandatory to cancel a designation.

By Yoon Min-sik (
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Korea Herald daum