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[Opinion] There Is No National Growth without Fundamental Studies

[Opinion] There Is No National Growth without Fundamental Studies

Posted March. 01, 2002 10:13,   


In the early 1980s, U.S. TV news channels were filled with news about strikes. And the U.S. scholars, then, were actively engaged with finding out what caused Japan to grow so rapidly. A number of major issues, including Japanese corporations’ apprenticeship policy, life-long employment, and the society’s Samurai spirit, were studied and researched.

But what is Japan like nowadays? U.S., which was suffering from inveterate strikes, leaped into a global economic power once again, but Japan is failing to escape economic depression since 1990s. What brought such difference?

There may be various answers. One may point out U.S.A.’s restructuring and economic reform, which includes labor market’s flexibility, and success of powerful economic policies. However, the most noticeable reason could be said to be the government’s continuous interest and investment in fundamental studies.

U.S.A.’s single subject that currently has the most professors would be mathematics. In the case of Washington University, in which the author himself pursued education, about 80 professors are in service for the subject.

On the other hand, Korea’s few private colleges are even abolishing mathematics for restructuring. It is like wishing for luck in chance to pursue scholarship development neglecting mathematics, which is fundamental.

Also, because many of Korean colleges are currently being reorganized for practical studies, there is a shared concern that Korea will lose its ground in competitions.

In cases of humanities departments, popular laws and management, and in cases of natural academics, medical departments or IT related subjects are attracting great numbers of students.

However, would applied studies advance with the foundation of fundamental studies? When Seoul National University consulted foreign scholars recently in order to make it globally recognized, one of the conclusions was the demand of strengthening liberal arts education and fundamental education. Recently around the world, more and more colleges and universities are emphasizing on a wide variety of liberal arts and general educations. Fundamental studies are very important in knowledge-based societies, because they focus on developing general knowledge and mental capability, and nurture mental flexibility and life-long attitude for learning.

In order to pursue such growth through fundamental studies, determined investments and interests must follow. But considering our conditions of lacking finances, an alternate to nurture fundamental studies is to introduce special graduate schools. Therefore, the special graduates schools, including management graduate school, law graduate school, and medical graduate school, which are currently under debate as parts of education reform, must be quickly introduced.

Fortunately, the Ministry of Education & Human Resources recently decided to apply the special medical graduate school system along with the previous medical universities. However, unified medical graduate school system must be applied in order to stimulate fundamental studies, rather than the dual system.

If special graduate schools operate, natural sciences like biology and Chemistry must be studied in order to advance to medical graduate schools, and social cultural sciences must be taken for law / management graduate schools. Fundamental studies will, therefore, be stimulated. Even `Ivy League` universities in the eastern side of the U.S. do not have management departments in the undergraduate school, except for a few including the University of Pennsylvania. Most of other elite management graduate schools have no undergraduate programs.

Also, when the special graduate schools are introduced, college students cannot discard studying in undergraduate schools like now. As previously revealed through a survey against Seoul University, the students only spend average 2 hours a day for studying, not to mention the future of our nation.

Another method to nurture fundamental studies would be to activate them with national and public colleges at the center. It uses the public enrollment function of national and public colleges to strengthen fundamental studies investments, which private colleges cannot do.

Without the development of fundamental studies, continuous growth cannot be expected. And there is no better valuable investment for future than investments for fundamental studies. Only they will secure our nation’s continuous growth.

Yoon Yong-Man (Professor of Economics, Incheon University)