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[Editorial] Enliven provincial colleges

Posted December. 27, 2000 09:45,   


Universities and colleges in provincial areas are crumbling. Brilliant high school students in outlying areas turn away from the colleges in their own regions and try to enter the universities in Seoul. And even students who were admitted into local colleges are leaving them, mainly because they will face difficulty finding jobs after graduation. As ever, there is a tendency for enterprises to look down on graduates of provincial colleges and social consciousness of this kind of prejudice is still in place.

The reason that the Education Ministry envisages the enactment of a special law to foster the local colleges is to resuscitate these beleaguered schools.

In the projected law, it is stipulated that the enterprises should not subject graduates of provincial colleges to discriminatory treatment in terms of hiring. And it was also decided to incorporate a provision in the basic employment policy law, meeting out punitive measures against enterprises that discriminate against those who didn't attend universities in Seoul. Also under consideration is a plan to provide government scholarships and living expenses to able students enrolled in provincial schools. In addition, under study is to merge or abolish redundant subjects on school curricula in order to sharpen the competitive edge of local colleges.

If these kinds of incentive measures are implemented, crisis-ridden local colleges will be greatly encouraged. Currently, local universities face a three-pronged challenge, namely, their graduates' difficulty in finding jobs, the desertion of students enrolled in the schools and financial hardship. Last year alone, a total of 7,000 students who succeeded in entrance examinations withdrew their enrollments. And an increasing number of local college students have taken leaves of absence from schools or abandoned their schools for those in Seoul. For this reason, a total of 17 local colleges or universities ran into debts of more than 10 billion won, and the ratio of students who were able to find jobs stood at an average of 10 percent of total graduates.

Such a crisis among local colleges has a spill-over effect on the pertinent regions. For balanced regional development, the grooming of provincial universities is hugely important. If local colleges are fostered soundly and superior manpower is produced, they will make great contributions to regional development and thus rehabilitate the stagnant economies in their communities.

Heretofore, the Education Ministry put forward local college development plans on many occasions, but they stopped short of providing assistance to individual schools and the remedial measures ended up going nowhere.

Fortunately, the ministry plan under consideration includes some concrete steps that include special legislation, although they look insufficient to address all pending problems. The ministry will have to implement the local college development program consistently and steadfastly, lest the measures end up as mere empty words. In order to ensure that local enterprises hire college graduates from outside of the capital, the government needs to take drastic policy steps, since the conventional policy of encouraging the business firms to do so has been futile. One method is the introduction of a quota system in the various state exams for the employment of local school graduates. At the same time, local colleges are asked to take drastic self-rescue measures to transform themselves into viable higher education institutes, commensurate with their community characteristics.

If provincial school graduates can live in their native communities and enjoy equal job opportunities, there will be no need for them to leave their hometowns and go to Seoul. If the local colleges survive, the nation will be much better off.