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[Newsmaker] S. Korea cancels licenses for 10 elite high schools

South Korea pushed ahead Friday to cancel the licenses of 10 "autonomous private high schools" despite strong protests from the elite institutions and parents.

Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae gave consent to regional education offices' decision to deprive eight schools in Seoul and one in Busan of their special status as they failed to pass recent performance assessments, the ministry said. They will turned into regular schools next year.

Vice Education Minister Park Baeg-beom (Yonhap)
Vice Education Minister Park Baeg-beom (Yonhap)

One school in Seoul applied for such conversion voluntarily.

"The ministry decided to consent to the cancellation of the designation of eight schools in Seoul and Haeundae High School in Busan as autonomous private high schools, because the procedures and content of the achievement evaluation by the Seoul and Busan education offices were legitimate," Vice Education Minister Park Baeg-beom told reporters.

The schools and parents have protested the cancellation. The nine schools have said they would file lawsuits against what they call unfair and opaque assessments.

The liberal Moon Jae-in government has promised to abolish the elite category of high schools, which it says deepens education inequality and undermines efforts to improve public education.

Currently, 42 autonomous private high schools are in operation across the country. They must pass an achievement test every five years in order to have their license extended. In 2019, 24 schools were subject to evaluation.

The ministry has decided this year to turn a total of 12 such schools into general institutions. Ten were deprived the status after they got failing grades in the tests. Another two schools requested revocation of their licenses due to financial problems. 

Last month the education minister overturned a local education chief's decision to drop a school in the southwestern city of Jeonju from the elite school list. (Yonhap)