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Special Article A Heartfelt Letter from Joe Hee-yeon, Superintendent of Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education

I will realize ‘Humane and Righteous Together Forest Education.’

For a ‘Bold Advance toward an Advanced Country in Education’

Innovation in Seoul education continues. Joe Hee-yeon, the incumbent education superintendent in Seoul, was re-elected in the local election held on 13 June 2018, and launched Innovative Future-Oriented Education Phase 2 immediately.
Over the next four years, he will take the lead in promoting humane and righteous education in Seoul and helping Korea develop into one of the most educated countries in the world. Before setting off on the journey, Superintendent Joe has written a heartfelt letter to all those involved in education in the capital city.

Written by: Joe Hee-yeon (Superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education)

Toward a Changed Education in Seoul by 2022

Thanks to the citizens’ love and trust, I am addressing you today as the superintendent. I, the superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, fully understand that I am the embodiment of the citizens’ high expectations and aspirations about the quality of education in Seoul. That responsibility will serve as my guidepost for the next four years. I promised to create a better society through educational innovation in front of the photos of those students who perished in the Sewol ferry disaster four years ago. I did my utmost during the past four years to turn ‘a corrupt society, a corrupt education’ into ‘a healthy society, a humane education.’ Under the banner of ‘Innovative Future-Oriented Education for Everyone’s Happiness,’ I have restored innovation education and laid the foundation for future-oriented education. I am fully aware that my reelection is your solemn mandate to fulfill my unfinished commitment over the next four years. I will always bear it in mind and fulfill your mandate in a humble manner.

I will realize a democratic educational community where all those involved in school education respect one another with plenty of pride and trust in the system. When I visited Ahyeon Polytechnic School, I saw students leaving class and rushing into the cooking room as soon as the bell rang. I was told by them, “You can expect to see me later in the TV program “Please Take Care of My Refrigerator” as a famous chef. They come to school with lots of expectations. They even make the most of their breaks between classes to realize their dreams early. I will realize the dream of building ‘schools full of enthusiasm in the morning’ where students come to school with lots of expectation and enthusiasm. The schools will also enable teachers full of passion and aspiration to make every possible effort for their students while motivating parents to participate in school education as main players instead of mere assistants so that they can relieve their heavy burden of private education expenses thanks to their restored trust in public education.

Moreover, I dream of turning each community in the city’s autonomous districts into a school which in turn becomes synonymous with the community it belongs to. It is also my dream to create a world where students will no longer have to be fixated with the college entrance exams so that they can grow together toward the world and the future while accepting ‘just inequality’ regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds. Now, I am going to set off on a bold journey to realize my dreams and help develop the country into an advanced country in education where ‘genuine education’ is offered to all its citizens.

Toward Humane and Righteous Education in Seoul

I will make sure that school operation will focus on implementing a curriculum full of the ‘joy of learning.’ The focus of the education in Seoul must switch to enjoyable learning through voluntary work so that ‘the power of public education’ can be restored sooner rather than later. Innovation in teaching and evaluation must be directed at promoting students’ initiative and active participation in the teaching and learning process in schools. Of course, students' choices and autonomy should also be expanded. To this end, schools at all levels will makevarious efforts to implement a joyful curriculum.

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education will add the value of innovative future-oriented education to all areas of study in the city. Innovation is always an ongoing process. Innovation over the next four years will continue to be future-oriented. Under the banner of “Innovate again and again,’ the Office of Education will equip students with competencies required to cope with the Fourth Industrial Revolution era based on its achievements in innovative education. The Office of Education will promote further development of innovation schools while sharing the experience of the schools with general schools in the city.

To this end, the Office of Education will establish a collaborative system for each education district, further revitalize the faculty learning community between schools as well as inside schools, and complete the innovation of education in Seoul with the power of collective intelligence. The Office of Education will improve the school environment in a future-oriented way so that schools can become a place full of learning, play and rest. In accordance with progress in inter-Korean relations, the Office of Education will implement peace education cherishing coexistence and win-win cooperation between the two Koreas while working hard for global citizenship education as well as multicultural education. All this value-oriented education will aim at achieving the big goal of cultivating democratic citizenship in students.

The Office of Education will carry out the creative restructuring of educational administration with the aim of establishing an autonomous school operating system. The time when the Office of Education initiates and dictates everything has passed. The current duties of the Office of Education and the Superintendent include supporting teachers’ enthusiasm, meeting parents’ requests, and caring for all students carefully. The Office of Education will embark upon full-fledged restructuring of itself and district offices of education in the city in terms of educational administration. On the part of the Office of Education, focus will be shifted from the launch of new projects to the comprehensive support of schools through its organizational restructuring. The Office of Education will seek to promote the development of diverse and harmonious education through dynamic governance joined by faculty, education officials, students, parents and local community leaders. Through these efforts, the Office of Education will make sure that public education instead of private education will play a central role in students’ overall education and learning.

The Office of Education will create an example of an open-style citizen governance and a quiet lifestyle and culture revolution. Looking back on the past four years, new policies are more likely to become successful when they reflect the concerns of the major players in the education process including faculty and parents and get involved directly in the implementation processes of the relevant policies. The Office of Education will develop various systems of open-style citizen governance in a creative way and create a new model of open public institutions. Recently, there have been changes in various areas of citizens’ daily lives including the 'School MeToo' movement. The Candlelight Revolution is expanding beyond the political sphere into all sectors of citizens’ everyday lives. In this regard, the Office of Education we will make every effort to realize democracy in every corner of citizens’ daily lives.

Once again, education should become the path to and the hope for success. Through my four years in office, I witnessed the possibility for this firsthand. The Office of Education will continue to move toward a humane and righteous education in Seoul to meet students’ increasingly diverse potential. Based on its achievements during the ‘One Step Further’ campaign, the Office of Education will strive to make further progress by ten, one hundred steps in education in the city. Join our efforts. I would dare to say that Seoul will take the first bold step toward Korea becoming an advanced country in education. I am reaching out for help again to the educational family and citizens of Seoul. Please hold my hand. Let us join forces to open an era of newer and more dynamic education in Seoul together.

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