Vice Education Minister Jang Sang-yoon speaks at the National Assembly's Education Committee meeting held Tuesday. (Yonhap)
With the education minister offering her resignation, the controversial plan to lower the school entry age to 5 could be shelved, nearly 10 days after it was first introduced.
The Education Ministry on Tuesday apologized for a lack of communication concerning the previous report to the president, which proposed the system reform, saying it caused confusion.
“It has become realistically difficult to push for the lowering of school entry age,” Vice Education Minister Jang Sang-yoon said at the National Assembly’s Education Committee meeting held Tuesday.
“We reported the suggestion to lower the elementary school entry age to the president, hoping to start a public discussion on the matter,” Jang said, when Rep. Yoo Ki-hong, the head of the committee, requested the ministry to clarify its stance on the plan.
Education Minister Park Soon-ae, who announced her will to resign Monday, said the ministry will work on lowering the school entry age to 5 in its report to the president on July 29. The plan was met with heavy criticism from education groups and parents, forcing the ministry to reconsider its policy push.
“There was a misunderstanding in the press briefing process making it look like as if the plan has been finalized. We tried to correct (the misunderstanding) but it was difficult,” Jang said.
The vice minister continued to explain that the intent of the plan was to strengthen the state’s responsibility for child care. He, however, stopped short of saying whether the ministry will scrap the scheme or not.
At the National Assembly meeting, a memo on Jang’s desk caught on camera had the name of the president‘s education secretary Kwon Seong-yeon on it and read, “It would be best not to mention nationwide surveys or reform of school system in regards to the recent controversy.”
When asked about the memo, Jang explained, “I did receive a memo, but it is just one’s opinion. I would give my own answer based on my decision.”
Jang attended the event instead of Park, who also serves as deputy prime minister.
“I am responsible for all the controversies, including the school entry age reform plan. I wish for a better future for our children,” Park said Monday, announcing her offer to resign. Park is the first minister in the Yoon Suk-yeol administration to do so.
Meanwhile, with Park set to leave the post, educational organizations, civic groups and parents are calling for the ministry to officially drop the scheme. The Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union and Korea Federation of Teachers’ Associations both released a statement Monday, calling for the ministry to withdraw the plan.
A civic group, joined by Rep. Kang Deuk-gu, held a press conference at the National Assembly Tuesday in protest against the scheme.
“Though the minister has resigned, the people’s doubts and worries will continue if the ministry does not clearly announce its stance,” the group said. “The people will continue to be uneasy if the ministry fails to clearly announce its intent to withdraw the plan.”
By Im Eun-byel (firstname.lastname@example.org