Seoul Citizens Vote for Conservative Education Chief
Elementary and secondary schools are expected to strengthen their English education classes and take steps to boost competition among students and schools after Seoul citizens elected Kong Jeong-taek, 74, superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.
In line with the market-oriented education policy of the Lee Myung-bak administration, Kong has vowed to increase English-only classes and bring in more native English-speaking teachers during his presidency. Some schools have already started to use English in subjects such as math and science in what are called “English immersion classes.”
Under Kong’s governance, middle school seniors in the city will be able to apply for high schools they want to enroll at beginning 2010, regardless of where they live. Currently, students can only enter schools within their residential areas. The progressive teachers group has opposed the plan, arguing it will place schools into rankings and raise costs for private cram schools amid fiercer competition.
Under Kong’s leadership, more elite schools such as foreign language high schools and international schools will be set up in Seoul. Kong will be in charge of the city’s education policy until June 2010.
“I will take steps to boost competition among schools. Incompetent schools will face sanctions,” Kong said. “School principals will be held accountable for poor management.”
He said badly managed schools would face cuts in the number of classes they can offer and other administrative disadvantages.
“Strengthening competitiveness of schools is essential for reductions of costs for private cram schools,” Kong said.
Kong pledged that he would boost English education, including introducing English-only classes.
“I will make sure that all schools will have native English teachers,” he said.
In the close race, voters chose Kong over his progressive challenger, Jou Kyong-bok, a college professor and long-time civic activist.
Only 15.4 percent out of some 8.08 million eligible citizens cast ballots. It was the first election by Seoul residents, but the voting rate, the second lowest after Busan’s 15.35 percent, was considered disappointing. South Chuncheong and South Jeolla provinces also recorded lows of 17.2 percent and 21 percent, respectively. The poor voter turnout raises questions on the efficiency of electing the top educator for cities and provinces.