Free education


Success will depend on how to secure outlays

The country can no longer delay providing free education for high school students. That is why the Moon Jae-in administration has decided to begin this program for seniors in the fall semester this year. The government and ruling party made the decision Tuesday. They plan to expand free schooling to second-year students in 2020 and freshmen in 2021. If the plan is implemented as scheduled, the country will achieve its goal of free education for all students at primary, middle and high schools.

President Moon’s commitment to full-blown free education is part of his efforts to create an “inclusive” nation in which every citizen can enjoy equal opportunities and a fair share of the economic pie. It reflects his strong determination to ensure that education is a long-term investment for the future. Some critics may dismiss the free education plan as a populist policy to woo voters ahead of next year’s general election. Yet they should realize free education is a basic right stipulated in the Constitution. Delaying this right is tantamount to a violation of the supreme law. It is also a dereliction of duty on the part of the government. It is shameful that South Korea is the only country in the OECD, a club of 35 rich countries, which does not provide high school education free of charge. Currently, the state covers elementary and middle school education. The country has continued to delay the provision of free education for high school students, citing the lack of a budget. It is time for change. It is natural for the government to take care of not only primary but also secondary education. In this sense, time has long passed for the state to provide free-of-charge schooling for high school students.

Currently, 99.7 percent of middle school graduates go to high school. This means high school education has become a must. The provision of free education will help a family with a high school student save about 1.58 million won ($1,317) a year. This saved money will have an effect of increasing its monthly disposable income by 130,000 won. Now the problem is how to share the burden for free education which requires 385 billion won this year, 1.38 trillion won in 2020 and 1.99 trillion won in 2021. The Moon administration plans to let the state coffers cover 47.5 percent of the bill, while 17 provincial and municipal education offices will take the same portion. The remaining 5 percent will go to local administrations. The central government and local authorities should map out measures to ensure the sustainability of the free education plan by securing stable budgetary means. The plan must also serve as a turning point in normalizing dilapidated school education. Teachers, students and parents are eager to see the plan succeed at all cost.

(Korea Times)

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