The Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education has completed the administrative procedure to turn one of its autonomous private high schools into a public one, officials said Sunday.
“We have completed the review of legal procedures related to cancelling the designation of Dongsan Christian High School as an autonomous school, which includes possible rejection from the Education Ministry and the school,” a GPOE official told the local media.
If the GPOE goes through with the process, it will mark the first time an elite school ― which has relative freedom over operations and curriculum in exchange for not receiving government subsidies ― losing its status.
An assessment of Dongsan’s operations found that the school has fallen short of standards required for an autonomous private high school, according to officials.
The law states that autonomous schools are to be evaluated by local education offices once every five years. If the schools do not receive a required score of 70, education chiefs can revoke its status and privileges, which includes leeway in curriculum, the right to collect higher tuition, and the right to pick its own students via interviews.
Last week, the GPOE held a hearing on Dongsan’s evaluation where school officials protested that the assessment was unfair.
“The unacceptable discretion by the evaluation committee ended up in an unfair result. We plead that the Education Ministry will thoroughly examine the matter,” said Hong Won-yong, the principal of the school.
The school is mulling legal action against the GPOE if it does push ahead with the cancellation of its designation as an autonomous school.
Speculations are growing that Dongsan’s case may be a prelude to the fate of other autonomous schools as well. Upon taking office, 13 of 17 education superintendents ― all of whom are known as “progressives” ― have vowed to ultimately abolish autonomous schools in pursuit of more egalitarian education.
Gyeonggi’s Education chief Lee Jae-jung said the autonomous schools have failed to follow their founding purpose of diversifying education, and instead turned into institutes that only focus on college entrance.
Cho Hi-yeon, the education chief for Seoul, has promised financial support for elite schools that voluntarily forfeit their status.
Both the association of parents and principals of the elite schools, however, have publicly opposed the education chiefs’ plans.
The Education Ministry has been relatively mum on the issue, despite warning the education chiefs not to revoke the schools’ status without its consent. But it is unlikely that the government will comply with the progressive superintendents.
Although Education Minister-nominee Hwang Woo-yea has a limited background in education, the ruling party bigwig has said positive comments toward expanding autonomous schools in the past. This implies that possibility of the government and education offices reaching an amicable settlement over the elite schools is bleak.
By Yoon Min-sik (firstname.lastname@example.org)