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Gap widens between elite and regular schools

A decreasing number of students from Korea’s regular high schools are being admitted to top universities, recent data showed Tuesday, indicating that the education inequality induced by disparity in income is worsening.

Graduates from just 42.5 percent of 1,525 regular high schools were accepted by Seoul National University in 2014, according to Education Ministry data disclosed by Rep. Park Hae-ja of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy. The figure marked a sharp drop from 56.43 percent in 2010, and the number of regular school graduates admitted to top schools also declined from 1,972 to 1,550 during the same period

As SNU is Korea’s top university, the number of students accepted there is often used as one of the criteria evaluating a high school’s competence. Some schools are considered to have elite status, such as autonomous private high schools, foreign-language high schools, and specialized institutions. Those without such distinctions are referred to as regular schools

In contrast to performance by regular schools, only one of Korea’s 49 autonomous schools and one of the country’s 31 foreign language high schools failed to send a single graduate to the nation’s top school.

The numbers appeared to be evidence of the perception that competence of nation’s regular schools is quickly deteriorating, which progressive education chiefs such as Seoul Education Superintendent Cho Hi-yeon has blamed mainly on autonomous schools. In a recent interview with The Korea Herald, Cho criticized the disparity in students’ educational opportunities based on how much money their parents have.

As tuition at autonomous private high schools costs at least three times that of regular schools, concerns that a parent’s financial status would be inherited by their children is increasing. Wealthy parents afford better education for their children, who enjoy more success in school and ultimately in life because of this advantage, leading to a class system.

Parent’s wealth appears to be a factor for how well the student does in school, according to a report released in August by Seoul Education Research and Information Institute.

The report showed that students from a household whose monthly income was below 2 million won ($1,882) earned an average combined score of 192.63 in their Korean, English and math tests, but the children of parents with a monthly income of more than 5 million won scored 218.32 on the same results.

Im Seong-ho, an educational consultant and the head of Haneul Education pointed out that rich parents tend to spend more on their children’s education. An analysis by his firm showed that 47.9 percent of students that went to SNU from regular schools were from the affluent Gangnam area of southern Seoul.

According to Statistics Korea, families whose incomes are in the top 20 percent spend about 6.5 times more money on education than those in the bottom 20 percent.

“Unless we resolve the issue of educational inequality that stems from the parents’ financial status, regular high schools will continue to go through a crisis, which will be a serious problem for the entire country,” Rep. Park said.

By Yoon Min-sik (
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Korea Herald daum