firmly in place has been confirmed through an abundance of historical evidence.
A Country Will Thrive Only When Private Schools Take Action
Korea was able to rise up from the ashes of war and the misery of Japanese colonial times to achieve great economic prosperity, reaching the 12th or 13th position among the economies of the world. The power of education was hidden in the background, under the prosperity, which was focused on nurturing human resources as its top priority. Credit for such excellent human resources should long have been given to the private schools, established by well-wishers in the private sector. The ruling party and the government, however, seem to be intent on ruining the honor of private school foundations and on depriving schools of management rights, with the excuse of bad behavior of the part of said private schools.
It is surprising to discover that the Private School Law and the Revision of Education Law, created by the ruling Uri Party, are very similar to what the Korea Teachers Union has insisted upon to date. The framework of the two laws is based on reinforcing the dominance of the educational authorities over private schools and removing management rights from private school foundations, in turn passing them over to the School Operation Commission for elementary and secondary schools and to the College Council for universities and colleges. That is to say, they are presenting their case as a method to eliminate corruption in private school foundations, while their underlying intention is to take management rights away from school foundations, dominate schools, and impose their own ideology of education.
People arguing for the revision of the Private School Law are exaggerating the corruption in a few private schools as something widely prevalent, claiming that private schools are all hotbeds of corruption and bad behavior. They state that the only reason private school corruption has not been eliminated is that authority lies with school foundation board members. They strongly insist, therefore, that the rights of the boards be dispersed.
However, the current law and system is sufficient to punish people who are
responsible for corruption in private schools, and there is a system under which
even a temporary director can be sent to take over management. At this very
moment, several private school managers are under investigation due to the suspicion
of probable corruption. One corrupt private school has actually been closed.
Strict execution of the law will effectively get rid of private school corruption.
The management of private schools must do everything possible to remove any doubts about personnel management through honest and open recruiting. In addition, they have to make accounting processes transparent by disclosing budgets and settlements in detail. Some private school management definitely makes a greater effort to realize this.
However, some radical activists are disclosing their ambitious intention to take away all management rights of private schools, placing even sound and healthy private schools in chains, using the corruption in a small number of private schools as an excuse. It is definitely a crisis for all private schools. Private school operators, who have silently laid the foundation for the development of Korean education against all adversity, and without asking for credit, must stand together and take to the streets, if necessary. They must affirm their position?to close schools?when the Revised Private School Law is passed in the National Assembly. This is the painful outcry of people who have dedicated their lives to the development of private schools.
People arguing for the revision of the Private School Law distort private schools as ‘assets that have been donated to society' and therefore they should be under a public management system. The Revision of the Private School Law is based on this distorted perception, and allows a so-called open director at each organization to appoint directors recommended by the School Operation Committee or the University Council. Moreover, they are trying to upgrade the School Operation Committee, an advisor institute at present, to an organ of consultation. As for private colleges, they are trying to make it mandatory to install the College Council as an organ of consultation to take care of budget and settlement matters.
A private school is defined as one created through the donation of private property to a school foundation established to establish and manage the school. Naturally, all the assets of a private school are private assets, belonging to the school foundation. They belong to neither founder nor society. They are registered as assets under the name of the school foundation. The property rights governing these kinds of private assets are supposed to be guaranteed by Provision 23 of the Constitution. A third party is trying to redesign the legal system in order to allow it to seize the private assets of school foundations at will, which is synonymous with depriving any citizen of his or her private assets and turning them into social assets. This kind of behavior denies the absolute value of democracy and freedom in a totally unconstitutional way. Some even express worries that this society is moving in the direction of socialism.
We are living in a global era of unlimited competition where only the fittest can survive. If a country suppresses competition in society and there is, therefore, no No.1, we shall surely perish. China, a country that has always valued the equality of socialism, has been implementing elite education. The other advanced countries have developed elite education programs, preparing for the uncertainties of the future by developing the talents and individual characteristics of each individual through diversified programs. In Korea, it is only the private schools that offer this type of education.
The current policy of high school and college standardization only allows schools to select students based on standard criteria, thereby nullifying any chance to produce substantial results. At this moment, Korea lacks quality schools and, therefore, we can only sit back and watch students going abroad for higher education. The economic burden of overseas education is snowballing and is even affecting the national economy. Now is the time for our government and our society to help schools nurture our own human resources inside this country. First, the government should return to private schools the right to select students, to organize educational curricula and to set tuition rates. Also, the government should encourage private schools to voluntarily engage each other in healthy competition. It should set the direction of education innovation to maximize the virtues of private schools. That is the only way to revive our education and make this country thrive.
We have to stop consuming our energies in conflicts aimed at removing the rights of others and in creating antagonism and hostility among school members. Now is the time for everyone take action to help private schools and their supporters; to galvanize, encourage and add to the momentum so that they can regain their declining vitality.
Hong, Seong-Dae (Board Director of Sangsan Senior High School)