firmly in place has been confirmed through an abundance of historical evidence.
Choice of Living Place and School
Sharp increase in 'transfer of higher-grade elementary school children ' to
schools in Kangnam Unified District
New York City's School Fear a Wave of Transfers
On early October, a Korean newspaper and New York Times coincidently dealt with an issue. They were articles as to 'school transfer', which seemed to be written in a very in-depth manner since the new semester had just started off. Each of articles can be summarized as follows; The number of students transferred in higher grade of the elementary schools to those in the areas of Daechi-dong and Dogok-dong, Kangnam is more than two times as many as the number of transferred students in lower grade for the students want to go to better middle schools. The public schools in New York are bothered by a wave of transfers. About 8,000 students have chosen to transfer from the schools labeled as failing school. Although they are identical phenomena incurred at almost the same time, the reasons are far different as much as the distance between two cities.
New Federal No Child Left Behind Act
The U.S. President Bush signed reform legislation on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in early 2002, gaining overwhelming supports from the Senate and House. Both Republican and Democrats reached a bipartisan agreement upon this reform bill, transcending individual partisan interest; it has taken 8 years since the Clinton Administration amended the ESEA in 1994. The ESEA since it was enacted in 1965 has the added name. President Clinton named it as 'Goals for 2000', and Bush decided it as 'No Child Left Behind'.
Summary of the Bush Administration's New Federal Act
Annual evaluation: Evaluation on the subjects of 'reading' and 'math' will
be performed based upon the academic standards of each local state for the 3rd
grade of elementary school to the 2nd grade of middle school students.
Academic performance Improvement: Every school should annually show the appropriate level of improvement in its academic performance of all students including special education classes and sub-units of minorities.
Improvement in teacher qualification: The teachers of core subjects should have sufficient qualifications to meet the standards of local states.
Reinforcing a school choice right: If a public school fails to meet the academic
standards set by the state government, the students from that school are eligible
to choose another public school in the same school district, and offered transportation
service. And they are able to hire a tutor by the use of federal financial resources.
If the school fails to achieve the appropriate performance for 5 years, the
state government can consign the school to a private agent or transfer it into
the charter school, or change all school management staff.
The article on the wave of transfers featured in New York Times was writing about the transferred students resulted by the enforcement of this act. A New York city's official was quoted as saying that only 8,000 chose to transfer of the roughly 300,000 students in 315 schools who were eligible. Although it only accounts for less than one percentage of the total one million students in New York, such movement would be disruptive to both the schools and the students. In Chicago, 19,000 students requested transfers but only 1,100 were allowed to move. In New York, no transfer requests were rejected, and the number is expected to increase more and more.
School Choice in the U.S.
Most of parents living in New York city who send their child to the public
school are placed in socially and economically lower status. It is known that
90 percent of students are Blacks and Hispanics in the downtown public schools.
For the citizens who cannot afford for the private school, and unable to move
to the suburbs for better education opportunities, such new federal education
reform is unquestionably good news. For the parents having socially and economically
lower status become able to choose the school that they want.
The conventional methods to select a school in the States are to go to the
private school or move to a good school district. According to a survey, 59%
of parents and students in the U.S. choose their school by themselves and the
rest of them go to the school as they are assigned to. 11% of them participated
in the program within the relevant school districts, 10% a private school, 2%
home schooling, and 1% a charter school. The research showed that the rest of
36% responded that they choose a school by moving to the living area (Hening
and Sugarman, 1999). It means that only 10 percent of parents choose to send
their children to private schools and rather most of parents prefer to select
a school by moving to a good school district.
Of the financial resources for the U.S. public school, the greatest portion
is from local property tax, and which is mostly used for the financial budget
for the relevant district's public schools without being transferred to other
districts. Therefore, the tax of the rich districts in the suburb areas is high
rated, leading the level of the public school to be boosted up. The parents
move to those areas paying a lot for sending their child to such good schools.
It can be said that educational cost is included in the high housing prices
and tax. For that reason, rights of school choice were limited to only middle
and high-class people, but the new federal act enables the middle and lower
class people to choose the school.
The only way to choose the school in Korea - 'to Kangnam'
From early 80's to mid 90's, the fever of the '8th school district' coupled
with the development of Kangnam area had been a really poignant social problem.
Such 8th school district fever had been one of the most frequently featured
topics in newspapers and broadcasting news for a long time, but it had become
rare from the mid 90's to not long ago. The Kangnam area has appeared again
as the center of education since 2001 when the unequalized education districts
such as Bundang, Ilsan, etc. changed into the equalized districts.
Looking back on the past, it seemed that the elite high schools in the new
cities, represented by Seohyun High School in Bundang and Baeksuk High School
in Ilsan allured many people into the new cities. While such schools were standing
out, new cities were crowded by students who wanted to go to those schools and
the private academic institutes to prepare them for college. On the other hand,
Kangnam was quiet. It was certain that those cities were alternatives to parents
and students to choose the living areas for school choice. As long as such choice
alternatives existed, demands for education were distributed, the housing prices
of Kangnam became stable to some extent, and the entry rates into the prestigious
universities achieved by the 8th school district were not as high as what it
used to be. It was likely that the effect of elite high schools in the new cities,
foreign language high schools, and science high schools had been emerged in
Since Bundang and Ilsan were designated as the equalized education district
2 years ago, the range of resident areas to be considered for better education
by parents was significantly narrowed down. They must have felt as if a multiple-choice
question is changed to a true false question. Parents who might have chosen
a new city as the living area eventually moved to the Kangnam district, and
along with expectations of the redevelopment of Kangnam. It has caused the housing
prices in Kangnam to skyrocket since 2001, and lured the transferring students
into the elementary schools in some specific areas. In order to get better education,
there are only limited choices left: whether to pay for the skyrocketing housing
price in the Kangnam district or to transfer the resident registration number
illegally. What is to say, only the creamy layer of the people who have high
social and economic status can be offered a better education opportunity.
Sarcastic remarks for choice of private institute not of school
The drastic difference in reasons why people go to Kangnam between in the 20th
century and 21st century lies in the main body to offer better education. In
old times, people moved to Kangnam for going to 'new elite schools' showing
high rates of entering good universities, but nowadays, they pursue the 'elite
private education' represented by 'Daechi-dong institute areas'. The right education,
which the school has supplied and has to supply, seems to be transferred to
the private educational institution before one knows. It should be the school
taking charge of education, but parents and students as the consumers of education
give the cold look at this fact. Many Kangnam parents and students seem to turn
their cold disinterest in schools into the enthusiastic preference to the institutes,
and prepare for going to the higher schools.
School choice as the choice of equality
It is true that graduating from a good school leads you to have higher status
in social and economic perspectives in an easier way. If better education is
offered only in Kangnam area as now, the reproduction of social class is inevitable,
and our society will be more unequal society than ever. Therefore, creating
better education zones in several places appears to be a way to create a more
It might be apparent that the past situation was better than the current where
everyone is struggling to move into the Kangnam district from the perspective
of alleviating the economic and social saturation; at that time, the areas like
Bundang, Ilsan, Kwachon, and Anyang had their own attractions as unequalized
education districts. Instead of constructing a specialized education complex
in Pangyo, which seems to be an impractical measure, reviving such areas now
designated as the equalized education area into the unequalized district would
be a way to rein in the skyrocketing housing prices in Kangnam and to enable
parents to have the rights to choose schools for their children. It will result
in the similar effects to give the right of school choice to parents and students
in the 'poorer' school districts that show the low entry rates into the higher
While leaving the factors causing the housing prices in Kangnam to soar as they are, only implementation of some measures to curb the real estate prices will bring into the inevitable failures. Likewise, other advanced countries, as the education environment is a critical factor to affect the housing prices, I think it is the most reasonable approach to create better education environments in other areas as well as the already-saturated zones. Other than Kangnam, to have people, who cannot afford the house prices in Kangnam, exposed to better education will take it to equality social-economically, which is better than now. Then, they will not be frustrated for not living in Kangnam and not be worried about the surge of transfer school.
Dae kwon Park (Research Staff, Education Research Center at Yonsei University, firstname.lastname@example.org)