Twenty-five self-governing private high schools that went into operation in 2010 are undergoing a review by metropolitan and provincial education offices.
The outcome will determine whether or not the schools will be allowed to retain their status as self-governing schools or whether they will become general high schools next year.
But the review runs the risk of being biased, with most of the education offices headed by progressive superintendents, all of them elected to their posts in June on a promise to turn self-governing high schools into general high schools. The new superintendents are making a dubious claim that the presence of elite high schools, 49 in all, has been detrimental to sound public education.
One of their complaints is that the self-governing schools have focused on Korean, English and mathematics and, by doing so, increased the number of their graduates being admitted to prestigious universities.
Isn’t sending more students to Seoul National, Yonsei and Korea universities something for which they should be lauded, not penalized?
In 2009, President Lee Myung-bak’s administration decided to launch self-governing and self-financing private high schools. It promised to allow them to tailor their curriculums to the educational goals they were pursuing, to set tuition at a level they deemed appropriate and to apply their own criteria for the selection of freshmen.
Few would deny that the launch of self-governing high schools made a wider range of choices available, particularly to parents with bright middle school students, who could otherwise have been unchallenged.
Moreover, the money not spent on the self-financing schools could be used to improve the educational environment in regular high schools, which are subsidized by the government.
Another complaint is that most of the self-governing high schools failed to fill their admissions quota. But this should not be a matter of concern to metropolitan and provincial education offices. Instead, it is a problem the schools need to deal with on their own.
But the progressive superintendents are moving to change self-governing high schools to regular high schools.
Among them is a superintendent who has recently decided to decertify a self-governing high school in Gyeonggi Province.
Should the superintendents try to shut down legitimate self-governing high schools, it would be nothing but an ill-advised attempt to advance their own political agenda. They should let them alone and work on improving public education instead.