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the following is what i have right now. i need this to be more organized and advanced (+4 pages) Also, please add on why this is not a public discourse that I am criticizing is not completely hopeless!! thank u
Education War or a Political War
South Korea is the world’s most educated country, according to certain measurements. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 51.5 million, approximately 70% of, 24- to 35-year-olds have received tertiary education (Population). This is the highest percentage in the world and more than 20 percentage points higher than comparable rates in the United States. Korea’s high educational attainment level is one indicator of the country’s remarkable transformation and rapid economic progress over the last 70 years. Korea is a representation of one of the most astonishing rapid economic growth in the twentieth century. However, education attainment in contemporary Korea is a double-sided sword as it is strongly correlated with social mobility, income levels, and positions of power.
“Competitive”, “depressed”, “meritocratic”. These are words used to describe the contemporary Korean education system. In response, President Moon administration’s policy aims to expand equal educational opportunity in education through reformation measures that will decertify over 70 private high schools by 2025. This proposal to abolish private schools has sparked strong protest and debate, stirring up every communication platform in Korea including social media, news, and Korean government petition sites. However, the public discourse on abolishing private elite schools is too politicized rather than addressed in a productive way.
The discussion on abolishing elite private schools started to become intense in 2019. The Ministry of Education’s education reformation points out the inequality in education as elite private schools, including foreign language and autonomous high schools, have exacerbated the already egregious socioeconomic disparity in Korea. In response to this action, many elite private schools sued the Ministry of Education and the legal battle is still ongoing. To understand the public discourse in Korea, it is important to understand ‘Petitions to Blue House’. ‘Petitions to Blue House’ is a communication platform established by the current government that is composed of a system in which the government and Blue House officials respond to the petition recommended by more than 200,000 people over 30 days. By November 2021, the government officials responded to more than 80 petitions. Nowadays, this platform is used as an important platform for public discourse, more than the practical action to get the officials’ response but also as a “symbolic meaning” of stressing the opinions between citizens.
One petition posted on February 17th, 2021 in the Petition to Blue House website supports the government education reformation by arguing that “the reality that students with high-income families who can spend thousands of dollars on private education every month to enter privileged schools has exacerbated educational inequality and polarization.” This petition argues a valid point that parents in Korea are forced to spend an absorbent amount of money to educate their children in order to stay with the competition and this applies to private schools. The tuition for just school uniforms and textbooks for private Korean schools is beyond expensive and the price skyrockets every year because despite the high cost, parents are willing to send their children. Korea has the most private learning institutions, called Hagwon, per capita. An average family in Korea spends 350,000 won ($310) per month on private education (Korean Youth). The Education Ministry and the national statistics office surveyed that middle-high income families spend more than five times on private education compared to low-income families (Korean Youth). The petition further contends these educational disparities that we do not have to bring this extra heated competition into school when students have to face it outside of the classrooms, which is hagwon. If the Ministry of Education stays as a bystander and just observes this race to enter private school, the entire education system would not have a place for low-income and even middle-class families. The writer emphasizes that it is the government’s responsibility to offer equal opportunities to all students and provide an educational environment that helps students feel they are competing with equal amounts of resources. The existence of private schools, however, makes the situation opposite. Instead of trying their best to aim for colleges they truly want to attend, public school students would seek lower options because they would think they do not have a chance competing with students from private schools with incomparable resources that back them up.
However, the writer misleads the argument by urging that “the court should not make the mistake of maintaining private schools by dismissing the lawsuit on the side of the private schools in consideration of feud between education entities and upcoming change of regime”. Politicizing the argument by associating legal decisions to government and regime distracts the valid arguments that concern the socioeconomic disparity in education.
Despite the various reasons supporting the reformation, arguments criticizing the private school abolition have a significant role in the discussion. Private schools, especially the autonomous schools, were established by the President Lee administration, one of the conservatives, unlike the President Moon administration. The initial purpose of autonomous schools was to provide diversified education. Because of the freedom that autonomous schools have, many schools have introduced different curriculum options, such as science-emphasized, language and literature-emphasized, or even foreign education curricula such as Advanced Placement or International baccalaureate classes for the students.
Another reason is that it reduces the cost for hagwons. Rather than spending more than a thousand dollars for private tutors and outside resources, students can get the equal quality of help inside private schools. Applying for private high school is open to every student regardless of their economic status and if the student is from the bottom 20% quartile, they are offered financial aid throughout their school years. Once the student enters private schools, he or she would be able to access after-school tutoring and counselor services that connect the student to internship opportunities related to his or her interests. Also, the teaching quality is fairly better than in public schools, which would benefit the students since they do not have to seek secondary studying aid such as hagwons. Although it would be one option to elevate all public schools’ education levels, this is relatively an optimistic solution that would take more than a few decades to work in reality.
One petition written by students and parents group of Sangsan private autonomous school argues that “students in Sangsan private high school applied here for the benefits that autonomous schools have and gave up having an easier environment for higher GPA since 80% of the students are applying for universities with extracurricular-emphasized route”. This is a valid argument — Sangsan private autonomous school has integrated an independent program called “Sangsan Self Empowerment Program (SSEP)” which is one kind of extracurricular-emphasized class in which students freely explore academic topics of their interest to write and present research papers. It is true that such programs attract universities to accept students from autonomous schools. Sangsan private autonomous school is one of the top five high schools with the most Seoul National University acceptance. However, this petition is also misled to political discussion. The writer especially points out that the education office of North Jeolla province, where Sangsan high school is located, has higher standards in a performance assessment, unlike other provinces. Then further argues that this is an abuse of the North Jeolla province superintendent’s position not to renew the autonomous school license for Sangsan high school.
When politicians and citizens brought this issue to the table, it started as a friendly discussion that everyone cared about the wellbeing of students and equal opportunities. Nonetheless, as the debate continued, it slowly leaned towards disputes between two political parties rather than a united effort to solve this educational issue. This is definitely not the path the government should take since it will result in nothing but a messy political crisis. Instead of focusing on the essential topics such as eliminating special entries for private school students into colleges or offering extra assistance to public schools, the Congress is discussing how to cut off the budget for public schools to use it in different places or how to deal with expensive lawsuits from private schools and parents.
Education, especially four years spent in high school is crucial for students because it is the period when they build their self character both academically and personally. It is the time they get to explore multiple paths and decide how they want to spend their lives outside of school fences. It should not be something that is easily swayed by political sides or dealt with based on the economic consequences that would follow. That is why this ongoing issue about reforming private schools should be handled delicately, putting the students’ well-being and improved educational environment as a primary concern.