Abrupt pol­icy change

So­cial con­sen­sus key to en­sur­ing bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion

The Korea Times - - OPINION -

The Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion has been crit­i­cized for sud­denly chang­ing its high school ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy with­out re­flect­ing the dif­fer­ent voices of stu­dents, par­ents and teach­ers. No one can eas­ily ac­cept the way the govern­ment makes any pol­icy shift in such a roug­hand-ready man­ner.

On Thurs­day, the min­istry an­nounced a plan to turn three types of elite high schools into gen­eral schools by 2025. The plan is aimed at pro­mot­ing “fair­ness” in ed­u­ca­tion and im­prov­ing the qual­ity of pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion. Those af­fected schools are 79 au­ton­o­mous pri­vate, for­eign lan­guage and in­ter­na­tional high schools.

Of course there is a need for shut­ting down such schools be­cause their stu­dents usu­ally en­joy un­due ad­van­tages and priv­i­leges in en­ter­ing top-notch uni­ver­si­ties. Such a need has grown since a cor­rup­tion case in­volv­ing for­mer Jus­tice Min­is­ter Cho Kuk erupted when he was ap­pointed in Septem­ber. Cho re­signed af­ter 35 days in of­fice in mid-Oc­to­ber, in the face of a mount­ing pub­lic back­lash over his al­leged un­fair and hyp­o­crit­i­cal be­hav­ior.

Cho and his wife face al­le­ga­tions that they were deeply in­volved in ad­mis­sions fraud to help their daugh­ter, who at­tended a for­eign lan­guage high school, en­ter a pres­ti­gious uni­ver­sity.

Pres­i­dent Moon must have felt that Cho fam­ily’s al­leged ad­mis­sions scheme has un­der­mined his com­mit­ment to cre­ate a fair so­ci­ety. There­fore, he has de­cided to close for­eign lan­guage and other elite high schools in a bid to over­come his po­lit­i­cal set­back. Nev­er­the­less, Moon and his govern­ment should have taken a due de­ci­sion-mak­ing process.

For this rea­son, the Pres­i­dent can­not de­flect crit­i­cism for mak­ing a uni­lat­eral de­ci­sion with­out let­ting the ed­u­ca­tion min­istry hold pub­lic hear­ings on the is­sue. Be­fore the Cho case, the min­istry had no plan to scrap the elite high school sys­tem, although it was seek­ing to close such schools if they failed to meet cer­tain re­quire­ments for their op­er­a­tion.

The prob­lem is that the min­istry was un­able to ex­er­cise its de­ci­sion-mak­ing right. Moon made the de­ci­sion, and then or­dered the min­istry to an­nounce it. This top­down process could be ef­fec­tive in im­ple­ment­ing any de­ci­sion made by the chief ex­ec­u­tive. But it might put a demo­cratic de­ci­sion-mak­ing process at risk. Any uni­lat­eral de­ci­sion of­ten proves to be a recipe for fail­ure.

That ex­plains why crit­ics ex­press wor­ries about the sud­den shift of pol­icy, which de­fies an adage that ed­u­ca­tion is a plan that spans as long as 100 years. An ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy should be long-term to nur­ture fu­ture lead­ers of our so­ci­ety and na­tion. Im­pro­vised and ex­pe­di­ent mea­sures stand lit­tle chance of suc­cess.

It would be wrong if the Moon ad­min­is­tra­tion wants to help the rul­ing Demo­cratic Party of Korea woo vot­ers ahead of the April 15 gen­eral elec­tion by de­cid­ing to close the elite schools. First, the govern­ment should build a so­cial con­sen­sus on the is­sue if it re­ally wants to pro­vide bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion for stu­dents.

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