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Seoul education office to support same-sex schools to turn coed

By Choi Jeong-yoon

Published : April 1, 2024 - 15:45

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Seoul plans to boost fiscal support to encourage single-sex schools in the city to transition to coeducational schools, which refers to schools where male and female students are taught together, according to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education on Monday.

Same-sex schools that register to change to coed will receive 600 million won ($445,000) for six years. Schools can use the funds for educational programs and activities suitable for each school.

Schools will also receive 90 million won for three years for personnel expenses to hire student counselors considering the additional need for student life guidance due to the transition. Facility improvement costs, such as those needed for changes to restrooms and changing rooms will be supported.

Currently, 241 middle and high schools in the city are gender separate, accounting for 34 percent of the total number of schools in Seoul. For high schools, the ratio is much higher, with nearly half of them being all-boys or all-girls schools.

Most schools in South Korea were single-sex due to the influence of Confucianism.

"In the past, Korea didn't educate women, so there was a great difference in the number of schools for boys and girls. And due to a concept in Confucianism that prohibits a boy and a girl from sitting together after they have reached the age of 7, schools were strictly separated for male and female," explained Park Nam-gi, a professor of education at Gwangju National University of Education.

However, the old custom has aggravated educational opportunities for students due to the overall decrease in the school-age population. Students who reside in areas with a high proportion of single-sex schools face difficulties in finding a school, resulting in them having to travel long distances to get to school, the Seoul Education Office said.

"For instance, if A region has a high portion of all-girls high schools, because the number of female students, or students in general has decreased, schools have a hard time running programs that need a certain number of students, like physical education," said a government official.

An imbalance in the gender ratio has also led students and parents to avoid single-sex schools, it added.

"The increased support for coeducation is expected to create stable school allocations, reduce gender imbalances among schools and narrow the gap between preferred and non-preferred schools," said Cho Hee-yeon, superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.