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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 8)

All News 07:06 June 08, 2018

Improving schools
Parents should carefully choose education chiefs

The June 13 local elections will be important for the future of the nation's schools as 17 education superintendents will be elected.

Voter interest in the local elections has been undermined by the unprecedented series of summits with North Korea. The voters' attention is currently taken up by the June 12 summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, which takes place just one day before the quadrennial elections.

Few people know or care to know who is running for mayor or governor in the local elections, let alone for education chief. However, parents ought to take more interest in choosing education chiefs as these have immense power over the management and budgets of elementary, middle and high schools, and influence over policy decisions.

The need to elect proper education chiefs is all the more important at this critical juncture for the nation's schools, which are faced with new challenges in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Also schools must duly respond to social changes particularly in light of the falling number of students due to the low birthrate. However, it is uncertain whether the ruling and opposition party contenders are fully equipped with the vision, professional experience and commitment needed for the positions they are running for. Rather, elections for education chiefs have become "too political," with the candidates focusing too much on politics and not enough on education pledges.

It is problematic that a lot of the contenders are churning out populist policies, such as free schools trips or expanding the number of teachers. There are 59 candidates running for education chiefs, and most of them have pledged to hire more teachers. This goes against the current population trend. It also does not consider the hiring situation at public schools, which are already having difficulty in dealing with the oversupply of educators. Many people who have successfully passed the state examination for teaching certificates are still waiting for appointments.

Many candidates have placed priority on free programs, with some promising free tuition and meals at high schools or providing free schools uniforms and school trips.

It falls upon the parents to fully review the feasibility of the candidates' pledges. It is an important responsibility of voters to carefully check on the qualifications, rather than the political background, of the candidates before making a decision on who is most fit to take charge of education in their region for the next four years.

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