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Three candidates compete for Seoul education superintendent.

Three candidates have registered to run for Seoul education superintendent in the June 13 local elections.

Liberal candidate Cho Hee-yeon, the city's current superintendent of education, is running for a second term.

Moderate candidate Seoul National University professor Cho Young-dal and conservative candidate Dongguk University professor Park Sun-young will run against Cho, according to the National Election Commission.

The most recent survey released by Hankook Research has Cho Hee-yeon with a strong lead in the polls, accounting for 33.1 percent. Distantly following is Cho Young-dal with 11.2 percent and further behind is Park Sun-young with 6.2 percent. However, there is a backside to this as 41.4 percent said they weren't sure or had no preferred candidate.

With a hefty lead the current superintendent has been enforcing a relaxed strategy.

"Until Election Day, we will campaign without a logo, songs and dances, but instead we will take a knock election approach," Cho Hee-yeon said.

Moderate candidate Cho Young-dal has indirectly criticized the current superintendent's composure and campaign inactivity.

"If I am elected, I will separate the education superintendent election from the local elections," Cho Young-dal said. "Currently, the education superintendent election is either swayed politically or the public is indifferent as it coincides with the local elections."

Park also took a shot at Cho, claiming his "pro-North Korea views" could be dangerous to students. "North Korea is unreliable at best, but the current superintendent plans to take field trips north of the border," Park said. "Even if I have to stay up all night, I will study and adopt other well-rounded policies."

Pledges to appeal to public

Each candidate has come up with a set of educational pledges to appeal to Seoul residents, with the local elections less than two weeks away.

One of Cho Hee-yeon's key pledges focuses on freeing up regulations on students' dress and hair codes, if the school's students, parents and teaching staff come to a consensus on the matter.

Currently, most Korean schools have dress codes, mandating school uniforms, black shoes and certain color socks. However, Cho's pledges will free the students from such regulations and allow them to wear clothing of their choice including hoodies and shorts.

By abolishing current regulations, Cho aims to strengthen students' rights.

Conservative candidate Park Sun-young's key pledge is guaranteeing parents and students can apply to the school of their choice no matter the location. She plans to allow institutions to recruit students through interviews and other screening processes.

The move could expand autonomy in education and enhance school competitiveness. However, some experts point out the move could intensify school ranking systems and create unnecessary competition among institutions.

Cho Young-dal's key pledge is to create a "dream campus" that gives second- and third-year high school students an opportunity to freely explore careers by connecting schools and local communities. Student will have an opportunity to explore nearby universities and companies of interest.

Experts believe it is an innovative education model that helps students find their career path early on so they can start taking classes that focus on their field of interest. However, in order for the idea to work there needs to be a total switch from the current grading system to a more absolute evaluation system

Expected clashes

The candidates are expected to conflict with each other, especially over the "innovative school" policy. Innovative schools are a new education model that aim to break away from the current school system, which mainly ranks students based on their grades. The objective of the new policy aims to enhance a student's knowledge and talents through learner-centered education.

It has become a key pledge of all liberal education superintendents in the country.

During his term as superintendent, Cho Hee-yeon has established an innovative curriculum at close to 200 schools in the capital and he plans to further increase the number if he is re-elected.

Cho Young-dal vowed to halt additional establishment of innovative schools. He emphasized the need to enhance and resolve problematic issues surrounding the program.

In contrast, Park Sun-young aims to reduce the number of innovative schools in the capital, raising the problem that many students are failing to meet basic academic standards. She also vowed to eliminate the additional support budget of 100 million won, which has been provided annually by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.

Other pledges by the candidates that are expected to be in dispute are eliminating autonomous private and foreign language high schools as well as other college preparatory issues.

"It all comes down to how the candidates will present their main pledges and how they approach key education issues, which will be the main factor that will attract voters," an education official said.
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Publication:The Korea Times News (Seoul, Korea)
Date:May 30, 2018
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