‘Announcement first discussion later’ admission policy: The DONG-A ILBO

As controversy over the introduction of the “elementary school admissions policy for five-year-olds” grew, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Park Soon-ae tried to appease the public opinion by stating: “We will reach a social consensus with a spirit by involving many stakeholders to express their opinions in the National Education Committee. However, education-linked groups criticized, saying, “There has been no discussion or request to make proposals regarding the new policy within the education community.”

Earlier in the Lee Myung-bak administration, an early primary school admission program was eventually scrapped with an “announcement, first discussion later, government action later”. As a result, some point out that the current situation is again deja vu in 13 years.

In November 2009, the Presidential Committee for Future Planning proposed a plan to raise the elementary school entrance age by one year to address the issue of low fertility. At that time, Kwak Seung-jun, chairman of the future planning committee, appeared on a TV show and said, “Rather than combining two years into one year, if 25% of children whose birthday falls around three months earlier than the primary school entry age over the next four years, this could mitigate any shocks associated with low fertility.

Following the announcement of the Future Planning Committee, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, which was the line ministry, hastily established an “early schooling task force” and started to consider the proposal. After a review period of about a year, the ministry decided in October 2010 not to go any further, as early enrollment of five-year-olds would not prove effective. Instead, in May 2011 the introduction of the ‘Nuri Curriculum’, a general course for 5-year-olds, was announced.

At this time, the announcement by the Future Planning Committee of a potential policy without discussion with the ministry or social consensus sparked controversy over the “abuse of power”. It was said that the ministry only received the information a day before the committee’s announcement. Deputy Prime Minister Park saying, following her report to President Yoon Seok-yeol on Friday, “I had not discussed an early primary school admission plan for 5-year-olds with the local education offices”, there is a criticism that the collection of opinions did not begin until after the report was written.

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