SEOUL, Nov. 29 (Korea Bizwire) – Educators and school administrators are raising their voices in criticism of a revision to the Infant Care Act that was passed in the government’s Health and Welfare Committee on November 24, which decrees that unused rooms at elementary schools be repurposed for use as preschools.
Should the bill pass in the National Assembly session in December, it is expected to go into effect starting next June.
The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education released a statement on November 28 expressing “grave concern” over the government’s decision. “Should the proposed revision, [a bill] that was not consulted on by the Ministry of Education, education authorities and relevant organizations as well as educators in classrooms or discussed about with the Education Committee, pass in the full session of the National Assembly, disorder and confusion in the education sector will increase.”
Seoul’s education authority made sure to point out that it approved of the central government’s desire to grow the number of public preschools, but was also adamant in stating that the idea of repurposing unused classrooms was an entirely different problem altogether. It added that there were in actuality few unused spaces in Seoul’s schools due to other programs like public kindergartens already making use of additional space.
One problem in particular that was raised was the confusion that may arise from the inevitable overlap between the K-6 section of the elementary school and the preschools. Oversight of the former rests with the Ministry of Education and regional education offices, while the Health and Welfare Committee and municipal authorities regulate the latter.
As such, Seoul urged the government to reconsider by converting unused classrooms into kindergartens rather than preschools, listing worries over safety and the ambiguity that will undoubtedly be a part of any potential dustup between the preschool and the rest of the school.
The Korean Federation of Teachers’ Associations fired its own salvo against the government, also calling for more kindergartens than preschools. Like Seoul’s education office, it judged the Health and Welfare Committee’s failure to discuss the revision with education authorities to be problematic, calling it “difficult to comprehend”.
Some were dubious of the government’s motives behind the revision. One national association of private kindergartens said the proposed change was simply a means of fulfilling president Moon’s campaign pledge to raise enrollment at public preschools and kindergartens to 40 percent. It also accused the committee of operating behind closed doors to ensure the bill passed unimpeded.
Kevin Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)