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Special Article Education in Seoul: Expected Changes for 2019

Five Major Policies from the Perspective of an Education Expert

Policy Direction Recommendation for Seoul Innovative Future-Oriented Education, Phase 2

Since his reelection, superintendent Cho Heeyeon has been taking bold actions to advocate “Innovative Future-Oriented Education to Foster Creative Democratic Citizens” in phase 2 of Seoul Innovative Future-Oriented Education. In this article, I will review the major policies that were proposed for the second phase of Seoul Innovative Future-Oriented Education from the perspective of an education expert and recommend policy directions for further progress during the second phase of Seoul Innovative Future-Oriented Education based on the achievements of its first phase.

Written by In Chi-jong, principal of Songrye Middle School

A Bold Step Forward Toward the Future of Education in Seoul

Superintendent Cho Heeyeon published a white paper containing the blueprint of his second term based on his election pledges. The white paper includes 31 goals and 106 tasks, organized under the vision of “Innovative Future-Oriented Education Fostering Creative Democratic Citizens.”

Before being appointed as school principal, I worked as a teacher, a school vice-commissioner at the Office of Education, and a deputy principal at a high school. Thus, I would like to review five major policies from the perspective of a field educator and make some recommendations in the hope to contribute to the successful implementation of Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education’s policies.

First, we must achieve a classroom revolution with inquisitive classrooms and evolving teachers

So far, innovation policies beyond the level of individual schools have focused on the physical expansion of innovation schools and innovative education districts. It is now time to concentrate on the qualitative growth of innovation schools, rather than their quantitative growth, and generalize innovative education. The values, philosophies and achievements of innovation schools must continuously be impregnated into ordinary schools through Innovation School Support Centers.

As we witness changes in ordinary schools such as the normalization of school administration, two-way communication at teachers’ meetings, teacher learning communities, and the expansion of the sharing culture during lessons, it is now time to begin efforts to innovate classroom lessons. We need to shift the focus of the traditional school supervision policies and school innovation policies to inside the classrooms and continue to implement policies aimed at promoting a school culture in which teachers with good teaching techniques are recognized.

The importance of process-centered project education through Seoul-type maker education cannot be overemphasized. The collaborative art activities that are currently required for 3rd grade students in middle schools must be applied to all primary and secondary school students, so that schools can lay the foundation for all the students’ capacity enhancement (cognitive skills, social and emotional skills, participatory and self-determination skills).

Second, we must establish a support system for continuous learning

Recently, a point at issue has been the allowance paid to out-of-school youth. With the philosophy of “Only One Education,” which condones abandoning even a single student, it is necessary to review payment requirements and select beneficiaries so that many young people can return to school by joining the education program and commit themselves to continuous learning.

We must refocus our various education policies, such as the diversification of high school curricula, the introduction of high school credit system, and the expansion of Odyssey School and alternative schools, so that despite differences in their educational backgrounds and academic interest, all students can find their strengths, equip themselves with academic motivation, and maintain a healthy and humane lifestyle. In addition, policies must be planned and implemented so that students can effectively continue learning according to their physical, emotional and sociocultural conditions.

Third, we must build schools as creative educational spaces that students wish to attend

As Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education promotes the creation of dream classrooms, dream libraries and dream playgrounds, it is highly evaluated that the office has actively begun to view these “spaces” as places of learning, rest and games from an educational perspective. By create environmentally friendly educational spaces and focusing on details such as colors and designs, schools will become places that students want to go to and, in turn, students will feel a greater sense of pride in their schools. What is critical, however, is the fact that an expert group including highly-experienced teachers must participate in these tasks so that their opinions can be reflected directly in the process.

In addition, various projects in individual schools, such as the installation of solar panels, the removal of asbestos, and protective measures against fine dust, need to be implemented by the Office of Education, so that school principals can focus on school education activities rather than the environment of its facilities.

Taking Another Step Forward in Phase 2

Fourth, we must join forces with district offices to build schools embedded in communities

Following the implementation of the Seoul-type Innovation Education in two districts, Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education is to launch the project for all of the city’s 25 districts in 2019, whereby schools can expand their premises into communities through public, private and academic partnerships and run community-supported curricula to increase students’ wellbeing.

Districts in Seoul sharply differ in terms of their fiscal self-reliance. Considering this, I hope that Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education will continue to strive for cooperation with the city’s self-governing district offices so as to increase the amount of their education subsidies and enhance the effects of education. As a free school year system is about to be implemented citywide, I hope that all the districts of Seoul will enhance their collaboration with the local communities to ensure that all activities in their area can be fulfilled. I hope that before the end of my term, “Exciting School Mornings” can become “Exciting School Days.”

In Songrye Middle School, located in Wirye New Town, Songpa-gu, the principal, the deputy principal and the head of administration office have respectively formed a consultative body, with community centers, kindergartens and elementary schools in the neighborhood so as to identify human and physical resources available in the community and open facilities, share current issues of the new town, and reinforce the interconnection of education provided at preschools and primary and secondary schools. I hope that this system will be expanded to the whole of Seoul Metropolitan City.

Fifth, we must realize field-centered school administration and task restructuring.

Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education has decided to restructure its organization to place focus on policy planning, research, and school inspection, and, thus, has re-conceptualize the functions of its district offices of education as “integrated school support centers.” This means that the Office of Education is going to enhance its school support functions, in line with the implementation of school autonomy. Though a bit late, we must continue to provide professional education officials with on-the-job training to foster innovative personnel so that we can realize the vision of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education for future-oriented education and reinforce the competencies of the Office of Education’s policies and inspection administration, while reducing the individual schools’ burden in terms of construction works, school meal services and the purchase of goods through further actions taken at the level of the offices of education.

While the number of public contest projects targeting schools need to be reduced, an increase in basic school budgets is necessary in order to help schools choose the contest projects on their own through the participation of all stakeholders. Furthermore, consulting-oriented customized school inspections must be implemented according to the schools’ requests, as well as special school inspections with the purpose of further enhancing the schools’ education and administration capabilities.

I hope that the focus of school inspections will shift from sanctions according to general inspections to a self-inspection system within the schools so as to enhance these schools’ self-improvement capacities and upgrade Seoul’s educational integrity. To this end, at the beginning of each semester, information should be shared about general inspection check lists and frequently violated items, while principals and deputy principals must receive special training in order to reinforce the school leaders’ autonomy and enhance their accountability.

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