Elite school in S Korea protests status downgrade

Elite school in S Korea protests status downgrade

Parents of students from a special purpose school held a protest Monday, denouncing Seoul education authorities' recent announcement that its status may be stripped due to poor performance.

Last Thursday, the Seoul Education Office of Education said this year's general assessment on 13 special-purpose middle and high schools found that Seoul Foreign Language High School and Younghoon International Middle School failed to meet the requirements necessary for redesignation as de facto elite schools.

"Even though our school received high scores in categories that we were told would be the main game-changer, such as the ratio of students accepted at universities, (the officials) said it may have its status revoked," said Jo Dae-yeon, head of an emergency parents' committee at the schools.

A foreign language high school specializes in foreign language education. They are widely considered as elite as only students with top grades are granted admission.

According to the committee, Seoul Foreign Language High School has been among the top in terms of the number of graduates that were accepted at colleges and universities. They demanded that the SMOE should unveil the evaluation scores.

But an SMOE official said the Seoul Foreign Language High School generally received low scores and refused to disclose the actual numbers, stating that the hearing has not yet taken place.

Jo said the committee plans to hold protests about the "unjust selection" by the SMOE every day until the hearing next Tuesday, when both schools will submit their explanations.

As of Monday, Younghoon International School did not reveal plans to hold protests. However, it faces a much more daunting battle protecting its status, as a recent admission fraud has already placed it in the firing line. Last year, an appellate court also confirmed a prison term for a former Younghoon chief for a series of irregularities related to admission processes.

The school claimed to have successfully rooted out corruption and vowed to fight to retain its status at the hearing.

Korean law stipulates that any school that has been found guilty of grade tampering or admission or accounting fraud can have their status stripped by local education authorities.

An SMOE official said schools can receive an extension or extra credit on their assessment if they provide a sufficient explanation and plans for improvement at the hearing.

If the education office decides to cancel their designation, it must lodge a request for the Education Ministry's approval ― which is mandated under the recently-revised ordinance on the operations of specialised schools ― within 20 days of the hearing. The government then has 50 days to reach a decision, although it can choose to delay its decision for two months.

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