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Seoul education chief vows to flatten educational hierarchy in online learning era

June 30, 2020 - 14:24 By Ko Jun-tae

Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education Superintendent Cho Hee-yeon speaks Tuesday during a press conference held in Seoul. The city’s education chief is looking to flatten the hierarchy among schools and stay in support of the liberal Moon Jae-in administration’s educational reform promoting social fairness. (Yonhap)
Seoul City’s education chief vowed to reduce educational disparity and innovate the current grading system to promote equal opportunities for all students.

The initiatives are intended to support the liberal Moon Jae-in administration’s educational reform promoting social fairness, which has also called for abolition of elite institutions across the country. The policy has faced some controversy for depriving students of educational choice.

Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education Superintendent Cho Hee-yeon said in a press conference Tuesday that the city must work toward providing flexible education that meets individual students’ talents while fostering a sense of community among them.

“Schools are now faced with a problem that it is no longer sustainable to continue providing the same educational material to the same students at the same time in the same place and with the same strategy,” Cho said.

“We are also deeply learning in face of the coronavirus outbreak that the fate of a community and the actions of an individual are connected to each other by fate.”

In executing those goals, Cho said SMOE will work to improve the online learning system for schools in the Seoul area and ensure the system is officially included in the city’s educational guidelines. The measure will help Seoul’s schools to effectively respond to emergency situations and continue to provide learning to students, he added.

“No matter how bad the coronavirus outbreak gets and however long it lasts, schools in Seoul will remain open and classes will continue to be held,” he said, adding SMOE is willing to lower the physical attendance requirement to as low as one full class day a week and let online learning fill the rest.

In tackling the systematic educational disparity among students, the superintendent said he would spend his remaining two years in office to flatten the hierarchy among schools and ensure private education is less needed. SMOE’s recent decision to revoke the licenses of Daewon International Middle School and Younghoon International Middle School was in line with that goal, he added.

“By abolishing such schools, we believe students will benefit from being free of fierce competition for school advancement,” Cho said. “As a whole, we have worked toward ensuring a fair environment for everyone, and we are going to keep that focus moving forward.”

The political push, supporting the Moon administration’s goal to abolish all elite high schools across the country from March 2025, has faced opposition concerning opportunities for high-ability students to advance to educational institutions of their choice.

Cho added in his list of goals for the second half of his current term that his office will also work to abolish the current system of determining high school admission based on the score of each student by his or her school activities including grades, attendance and volunteer hours.

The superintendent said he has established a dedicated task force toward that goal and is centered on “nobody is lost on the way.” While he is unsure at the moment what the new system will look like, he vowed to make “meaningful progress” in his remaining term.

By Ko Jun-tae (