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Education minister nominee stresses schools' autonomy

Oct. 3, 2022 - 14:52 By Im Eun-byel

Education Minister nominee Lee Ju-ho speaks to the press on his way to the office in central Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap)

Education Minister nominee Lee Ju-ho is likely to focus on ensuring the autonomy of schools if he takes office, while pushing for the launch of a high school credit system and more.

Lee, who was the head of the now-split Ministry of Education, Science and Technology from 2010 to 2013 during the Lee Myung-bak administration, has been named the nominee for education minister by President Yoon Suk-yeol last week. If confirmed, he will be returning to his post after nearly 10 years.

"When I was the minister, I stressed autonomy and responsibility,” Lee said on his way to the office on Friday. “Ensuring autonomy and liberty is the best way to stimulate the proper development of education.”

During his time in office, Lee pushed for the diversification of secondary education, launching new types of high schools such as autonomous private high schools and Meister vocational schools.

Though the Moon Jae-in administration had planned to end “elite education,” abolishing autonomous private high schools, foreign-language high schools and international schools, under Yoon Suk-yeol the schools are expected to stay, as the administration promotes “a reform of the high school system to provide diverse types of education.”

With Lee likely to helm the education office, the "elite" schools could remain.

Lee is also a supporter of the high school credit system. He called for the system to expand out to middle schools.

"We need to work on a flexible education model that provides education targeted at students' individual needs, past the competitive college entrance system,” Lee wrote in a book titled "AI Education Revolution" published last year, which he wrote with two others.

The high school credit system allows students to choose their own classes depending on their desired careers. The policy was drawn up during the Park Geun-hye administration and was pushed forward during the Moon Jae-in administration.

The current government has also included the launch of the system in 2025 as part of its agenda. It is currently reviewing the system.

Lee argued the credit system should be expanded to middle schools, too, after being implemented in high schools.

In the book, Lee also criticized the Korean education system for being "rigid."

“While the current high school system is a model of typical standardized education, the curriculum sets flexible ‘career exploration’ as its goal -- which does not add up,” he wrote.

Additionally, Lee has called for introducing artificial intelligence-assisted education. During the Seoul education superintendent race earlier this year, Lee proposed using AI teaching assistants at schools, explaining the high-tech tool could narrow the learning gap between students.

If Lee takes office, he would fill a position left empty for at least 50 days after former minister Park Soon-ae offered her resignation just 35 days after taking the office following a number of controversies.

The confirmation hearing for Lee is likely to be set after the period of inspection of the state administration.

The Confirmation Hearing Act mandates the National Assembly finish up the hearing process within 20 days after the president makes his request.

By Im Eun-byel (