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Private Education in the Korean Crosshairs

The Korean Herald has a scathing article about the Lee Myung Bak administration’s efforts to curb private education in Korea. Despite the economic turbulence in the past year, Koreans have increased their spending on private education by about 0.86 Trillion won – or about US$1 Billion.

Having already abolished late night courses in private academies, the government now wants to curtail (or even abolish) the rise of elite foreign language high schools.

According to the Korean Herald, English proficiency test scores winning academic competitions will not be recognized in the admission process. Instead, the schools will have to admit all students through the admissions officer system next year. The government claims that the changing the admission policy would help curb private education, although intelligent people understand they would simply change their strategy from  tutoring for test taking to interview skills.

A non-exam admission policy, the government believes, will

measure students’ creativity and development potential instead of memorized knowledge in specific subjects, would ease students’ burden of having to score high on college entrance exams and school tests.

Critics, however, caution against the “rash” introduction of the system.

Well, that seems intuitively obvious to even the casual observer; Having spent years entrenched in a system of awarding admission based on test scores, students have little, if any, creativity left in them and are mere automatons of study. They’ll need to be trained to be creative and show potential.

Parents argue that the admissions officers will use “subjective” judgements during the interview/evaluations. (Isn’t that what creativity is all about?)

Others argue that the admissions officers might be unqualified themselves, having been hired on short term contracts and thus have no long term exposure to the decisions they would make.

Although the Herald doesn’t go there, I will. It’s no secret that Korean parents routinely give teachers monetary or materials gifts with the understanding that they expect favors for their child. One can only imagine the potential for serious problems in giving gifts to the admissions officers. I’d like a shot at that job.

The pendulum swings both ways, folks. If this method of admissions gains traction it will hardly slow the private education industry but only cause a change in tactics. As our readers have mentioned before, the private educators are business people first, educators second. They won’t miss an opportunity to make a won.

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