ID :
Fri, 09/19/2008 - 01:32
Auther :

Government approves int'l middle schools in Seoul

SEOUL, Sept. 18 (Yonhap) -- The education ministry on Thursday approved the
opening of two international middle schools in Seoul next year, endorsing a new
policy that critics charge is exclusive and elitist.
The international middle school project, which was vetoed by the previous liberal
administration, received the nod from the new education chief in line with
President Lee Myung-bak's market-oriented education reform drive to enhance
competition at schools and increase the number of elite institutions.
Ahn Byong-man, minister of education, science and technology, notified the Seoul
Metropolitan Office of Education that he approved of the plan to convert Daewoon
Middle School and Younghoon Middle School, both in northern Seoul, into
international middle schools by March of the next academic year, officials said.
The chief of Seoul's municipal office had staked his career on the project,
overwhelmingly endorsed by parents in Seoul's affluent southern Gangnam
"(Opening) international middle schools in Seoul is just a matter of time,"
Superintendent Kong Jeong-taek said after his reelection in late July.
Officials say international middle schools will help curb Korea's growing
education deficit by absorbing a portion of those students that are now going
abroad. All the main academic courses in the new schools, with the exception of
Korean language classes, will be taught in English to promote greater proficiency
in the language.
Critics, however, say that international middle schools are glaring examples of
the elitism that exists within the conservative Lee government. They argue the
schools will serve as a gateway for privileged students to enter a handful of
high schools and ultimately top universities.
Signs that private education spending is on the rise are already evident. Over 30
private institutions in Seoul have been found to be charging extra fees to
elementary school students enrolled in their international middle school
preparation programs, according to the Seoul municipal education office.
"The policy is part of the kindergarten-to-university elitist drive," the
Association of Parents for Real Education said in a statement.
Opponents argue that private education spending has soared in the two provincial
towns that introduced international middle schools before Seoul, one in Gapyeong,
Gyeonggi Province, and another in the southern port city of Busan.