Friday, July 2, 2010

More Education News

1) Yesterday was the swearing-in of all the new government officials elected in the township, city and province elections on June 2. With a few exceptions, as noted by the Herald:
The ceremonies for Lee Kwang-jae, new Gangwon governor, and Kim Du-gyeom, new chief of the Nam-gu district office in Ulsan, were held. However, they were immediately suspended from duty and had to delegate their authorities to their subordinates.
Lee and Kim have been given jail sentences for violation of the law on political funds and bribery, respectively.

2) My new boss, Kwak N0-hyun, Seoul's education minister, was quick to announce the changes he wants to make as the the first liberal ever elected to the post. Mainly, he wants to "renovate" the policies emplaced by the Lee Myung-bak administration in the 2 1/2 years since it was installed.

First, he wants to eliminate the extreme competition that fuels the high school system and provides the raison d'etre for the hagwon culture. Second, he wants to provide students at all levels (KG through high school) with free schooling and free meals. Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon holds the purse strings, but is not fond of the idea. Third, Kwak wants to curb the "special schools" like Myung-bak's "autonomous private high schools", and the special subject schools (similar to the US magnet school model), on the grounds they disproportionately aid wealthier students.

3) The success of liberal school superintendents in 6 districts during the local elections has emboldened a coalition of concerned groups to open a Seoul-based headquarters to spearhead proposed legislation for "an ordinance on students' human rights." From a Dong-A Ilbo editorial:
The ordinance the groups seek to enact will likely contain clauses from one that Gyeonggi education superintendent Kim Sang-gon sought to enact but was shelved in the face of opposition by the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education. The draft ordinance prepared by the office includes a more liberal student dress code and hairstyles, freedom to assemble, and the right to help set educational policy and to accept or reject education excluding official curricula.

I'm unsure what is meant by that last part, though I do believe students should have a voice in certain decisions about their education. Choosing the curriculum, however, is best left to professional educators and experts in the respective fields of study--not students, not parents, not local busybodies, and not the Texas Board of Education. (Oops, how'd that get in there?)

The statement includes this:
“Students` human rights will serve as a stepping stone for them to leap forward to become the subject of education and citizens and the subject of politics ... The masters of the 2008 candlelight vigils against resumption of U.S. beef imports were teenagers.”

Hmmm, I'm not sure pointing to a case where people over-reacted uncritically to falshood and fear-mongering from the media is really the best way to make your point.

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