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A Great Leap of Progressive-leaning Education Superintendents Encourages Hopes for ‘Student-centered Education’
Controversy over ‘abolishment of the direct superintendent election system’
2014년 06월 17일 (화) HyoJin Cha, Reporter hjcha@worldyannews.com

The results of the election of education superintendents in the June 4 provincial election show the great leap forward of progressive-leaning figures. As many as 13 out of nation’s 17 education offices of cities and provinces will have progressive-leaning chiefs. In the metropolitan areas, Hee-yeon Cho (Seoul), Jae-jeong Lee (Gyeonggi Province) and Chung-yeon Lee (Incheon) were elected.

Progressive-leaning Seok-jun Kim and Jong-hoon Park swept over Busan and South Gyeongsang Province, which have been classified as a conservative stronghold. In Chungcheong areas as well, progressive candidates for education superintendent ranked first in Sejong City , North and South Chungcheong Province, except Daejeon City.

  Hee-yeon Cho, the superintendent-elect of Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education  
Regarding these results, some analysts say that citizens cast a vote for education superintendents who tend to avoid ranking schools and competition-driven education and promise to remove the educational disparity and expand universal education welfare. Part of the cause for the conservative camp’s crushing defeat is that the conservative failed to put up a single unified candidate so the voters were dispersed.

Looking back to the 2010 provincial election, among 13 progressive candidates who ran for education superintendent election of the nation’s 16 regions, only 6 candidates including for Seoul, Gyeonggi Province, North and South Jeolla Province, Gwangju and Kangwon Province won the election.

And 4 years has passed. Now under the circumstances where the conservative ruling party seizes power, more than double the number of progressive education chiefs has been elected. That is a very unprecedented situation. Particularly, Hee-yeon Cho, the unified candidate for the liberal camp, is mentioned as the most dramatic figure because he struggled with the low approval rating in the range of 4 percent at the beginning of the election and the majority of people predicted the election as ‘a fight between Yong-lin Moon and Seung-deok Koh’ but Cho won at the last moment.

The issue of ‘abolishing the direct election system of education superintendent’ has become a hot topic of debate since the election. This issue has been almost a task of long-cherished desire so far for both Saenuri Party and the conservative camp. Accordingly, many people have forecasted that the outcome of this election would trigger the motion of ‘shaking the direct election system’. 

As expected, the conservative-leaning Korea Federation of Teacher’s Associations (KFTA) released a statement on June 5, one day after the June 4 provincial election, and insisted, “The direct superintendent election system should be abolished as it resulted to an election more non-educational than overheated and corrupted political elections. Thus, we should push forward with a constitutional appeal against the direct superintendent election system and discuss about various alternatives including a system to appoint superintendents by president.” 

The KFTA also said, “We will develop a various kinds of campaign activities toward the nation as well as the government and political circles for abolishing the current direct election system. Article 31, Paragraph (4) of the Constitution specifies that the independence, professionalism and political impartiality of the education shall be guaranteed, but the direct education superintendent election system doesn’t accord with such constitutional spirit. Therefore, we will push on with the constitutional appeal against the direct election system.”

In response, the progressive-leaning Korean Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union (KTU) issued a statement saying, “The conservative show double-faced attitude. While saying they will humbly accept the outcomes of the election, they, on the other hand, won’t accept those of the education superintendent election,” and called upon the conservative “not to shake up the direct superintendent election system”.

The KTU also said, “Their insistence on the abolishment of the direct superintendent election system is just a political trick without a fundamental self-examination about the defeat of their conservative superintendents who were dependent upon color politic,” and pinned down the issue by saying, “To scrupulously solve election problems, all we need to do is simply to extend the publicly managed election system and set up backup measures, including increasing the number of TV debate, to make up for the direct election system.”

  Hee-yeon Cho, the superintendent-elect of Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education  

Changes in educational policies by elected education chiefs cause confusion among students

The direct election system of education superintendent was introduced when the ‘Local Education Autonomy Act’ was revised in December 2006. And the system was applied first to the 2007 election for Busan education superintendent. The elections for education superintendent have been carried out along with provincial elections, and this year’s was the second one following the June 2 election in 2010.

The direct superintendent election system is in accordance with Article 31, Paragraph (4) of the Constitution specifying that ‘the independence, professionalism and political impartiality of the education and the autonomy of university shall be guaranteed by what the law enacted.’ The intention of this provision is to be faithful to the principle that education matters should be fairly addressed without losing the balance due to a party’s political color or ideology. But the election for education superintendents is not much different from existing political elections. In many cases, figures are focused on according to a certain party’s support and inclination and the political impartiality vanishes away. In that sense, the most victimized group is ‘students’.

Since the direct election system was put into force in 2008 for Seoul education superintendent, education chiefs who had a different leaning have taken office in the order of Jeong-taek Gong (conservative), Noh-hyun Kwak (progressive) and Moon Yong-lin (conservative), and there has been the overissue of publishing educational policies, such as rescinding or reducing the educational policies enacted by former superintendent. Fortunately, the newly elected 13 progressive education superintendents this time appear to be aware of such concern.

Hee-yeon Cho, the superintendent-elect of Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, has said, “Positive policies including the free semester system by former superintendent Moon Yong-lin will continue, and even if the policy on autonomous private schools is changed, the office will assess schools strictly not to affect their students and transform only the autonomous private schools below the standard into a regular school or an innovative school.”

Those who directly involved with education are young students, but they don’t have the voting right. The direction of education has repeatedly changed based on the vote by adults, but those who suffering from the stress by the harsh collage entrance examination system due to the frequent changes in the direction of educational are students alone. It seems that understanding the priority of the importance of ‘student-based education than ‘adult-based' education is necessary for our future generation.
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