Amid the explosive process of impeachment of the former president Park Geun-Hye, Progressive party candidate Moon Jae-In became the dark horse of the recent election, winning the race, as expected by many politically-disappointed Koreans.
Assuming leadership after two conservative presidents, Moon’s appearance had the Koreans both excited and worried with the changes that he would bring to the shaken nation.
Education reform, for the good or the bad, quickly came under the president’s radar. Promising that “the thickness of parents’ wallets will not determine the education and prospective jobs for the children,” the new president simultaneously raised hope as well as many eyebrows with his statement. Among the first policies that Moon proposed in his first days as a president, his education reform involves getting rid of foreign language high schools, a number of “elitist” high schools, and other private institutions to promote the “equality in education.” It also includes reforming College Scholastic Ability Test–also known as CSAT, the hot potato of the South Korean education system.
Initially proposed to reduce competition and provide stress-free environment for the students in South Korea, President Moon’s education reform seems to raise opposition from many students and parents throughout the nation.
“I am not very supportive of what the president is trying to do,” said an anonymous parent of a boy currently attending a private elementary school in Gangnam, Seoul. “I understand that President Moon means well, but such a drastic change will not have a positive effect on Korean society in general. We have been familiarized with the original system for years now.”
Students–especially those who currently attend middle school–are the most alert regarding President Moon’s education reform; these middle-schoolers will be the first “lab rats” to have the new educational policy be tested on them.
“I am really worried,” said Hyun-soo Kim, a student attending a public middle school in Geoje, an island situated in the southern part of South Korea. Hyun-soo is an aspiring student who initially wished to continue his high school studies at Hankuk Academy of Foreign Studies(HAFS), a prestigious and competitive school in the city of Yongin. “Going to HAFS was one of my childhood dreams, but now I am not so sure.”
Hyun-soo also had a say about the traditional studying environment in Korea. “We all know that being a student in South Korea is not a fun experience,” says Hyun-soo, “but getting rid of competition does not necessarily promote stress-free environment. Competition exists everywhere.”
The current government proposed to bring “healthier” studying environment to the students and reduce the competitive aura that has compactly infiltrated throughout the growing conscience of the Korean students. Moon’s administration, voted by the Korean citizens to hold their wheel of fate, must strive to find the delicate balance in assisting the Korean students strive for their utmost potential.