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Lagging College Students

Posted April. 22, 2005 23:39,   


On April 22, Seoul National University (SNU), Yonsei University and Sungkyunkwan University held a symposium at Sungkyunkwan University in Myeongnyun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul. The title of the symposium was “What Could Be the Contribution of Universities?” Participants discussed ways to enhance the education of cultural subjects.

On the matter, SNU College of Engineering Dean Han Min-gu said, “Since the College Scholastic Aptitude Test (CSAT) has gotten easier, test takers’ scholastic ability has gone down. That is a fact. Such a problem would be quickly solved if the CSAT became more difficult again, or if each university once again was allowed to administer its own admission test.”

Jeong Heon-bae, a Business Administration professor at Chung-Ang University, deplored, saying, “Many undergraduates don’t know how to write even ‘life,’ a very easy word, or their own names in Chinese characters.”

In response, universities are scrambling to come up with measures including special “tutoring” to teach below-average students.

Since last year, SNU has been providing math and English courses to freshmen, who are considered to fall behind in scholastic capabilities. In 2005, the university expanded the program to include freshmen of graduate schools.

For instance, all new graduate students in the Department of Mathematical Sciences of Natural Sciences are required to take six hours of algebra and analytics, subjects for undergraduates, three days a week, and five hours of geometry and topology. The subjects are part of a seven-week pre-semester program.

The College of Engineering chose basic mathematical courses such as infinitesimal calculus.

The Department of Physics decided to review sophomore and senior chemistry, physics and other basic majors.

In the second semester of 2004, the College of Engineering set up speaking classes and a “science and technology writing” course to help first-year undergraduates, who have a hard time doing their homework due to poor writing skills.

Yonsei, too, formed three beginners’ classes, each of which consists of 180 engineering and science freshman majors, to give lectures on the basics of their study. The school is running three Physics 101 courses, each of which has 195 enrollees.

Sungkyunkwan is following suit to strengthen the education of cultural subjects. Out of 168 first semester cultural subjects (790 classes), the university reorganized 65 of them (39 percent). In the “writing and communication” department, the school is trying to emphasize composition by adding four subjects (105 courses) and hiring 11 additional professors to take charge of the courses.

In-Chul Lee Seong-Chul Hong inchul@donga.com sungchul@donga.com