|Realmeter conducted a public opinion survey with CBS|
Starting March 2025, the government has decided to convert special purpose high schools, such as independent private high schools and foreign high schools, into general public high schools. As the controversy grew over the fairness of entrance exams, due to the scandal of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, the Education Ministry declared the abolition of special purpose high schools. They said, “The purpose of the abolition of special purpose high schools is to reduce the pressure of high school rankings”. Many people who are involved with special purpose high schools strongly protest the abolition, calling it a “national education policy without the consultation of parties directly involved”. It is expected that a legal battle will take place in the future. The government said the measure is aimed at ranking high schools and alleviating educational inequality, but education circles pointed out that the government is lowering education levels with a policy to unify the types of high schools all at the same time.
Special purpose high schools are designed to make up for the shortcomings of the high school equalization system. They are said to move away from the traditional college entrance exam-oriented education and give students a variety of quality educational programs. But there are flaws with any policy that starts with a college-based system, and special purpose high schools are no exception. Foreign language and science high schools have turned into cram schools with a focus on getting into college. According to a 2013 study published by the Korea Educational Development Institute on the performance and improvement from high school diversification policy, the first reason students chose special purpose high schools was because they thought it would help them to get into university in the future. It is clear that special purpose high schools are really advantageous for getting accepted into high ranking universities.
Citizens have different opinions on the abolition of special purpose high schools. Jeong Joon-young (from Ulsan Foreign Language High School) said, “I oppose the abolition. I go to a foreign language school where my talents for foreign language grow. In this global age, you need to learn foreign languages that are essential to living in a global era”. Park Jae-hyun (from Ulsan Foreign Language High School) said, “I’m against it. The purpose of setting up a special purpose high school is to provide a different form of education. It is a problem if special purpose schools are abolished because they exist for a special purpose. And also, there would be bad effects if special purpose students took general classes with students who weren’t accepted into special programs because we have a different learning atmosphere. Our average grades will be lowered and our desire to learn will be diminished”.
Kim Min-ji (from Ilsan Dong High School) said, “Of course, I am aware that students are trying hard to get into special purpose high schools. But I think it’s wrong to have a different quality of education. Whether it’s a general high school or a specialized high school, the quality of the education should be the same. There shouldn’t be any special benefits for anyone. Currently, foreign language students have a large advantage compared to general high schools in certain areas, such as essays and circle activities. Also, lower-income students may not apply to special purpose high schools due to high costs unless they receive a scholarship.
The Realmeter (a polling agency) said that they conducted a public opinion survey with CBS on the abolition of special purpose high schools. According to this survey, 51.0% of the respondents said they supported the abolition, 37.4% opposed, and 11.6% did not know or answer. The majority of people in different regions and age groups gave high approval ratings for the abolition, but opposition prevailed among conservative people, such as supporters of the Liberty Korea Party.
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