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[Editorial] The “Three-Nots” Policy and Educational Populism

[Editorial] The “Three-Nots” Policy and Educational Populism

Posted March. 23, 2007 07:08,   


The government and universities are clashing over the ”Three Nots” policy, which forbids universities from having their own entrance exams, accepting donations in exchange for admission, and ranking high schools. Making clear his objection to university demands for abolishing the policy, President Roh argued yesterday, “Universities are competing not for better education, but for better selection.”

The “battle line” over the issue seems to be expanding. The Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union published a statement objecting to abolishing the policy. Chung Un-chan, former president of Seoul National University who may run in the presidential election, said, “At least two of the three, individual university entrance exams and high school ranking systems should be allowed.” As the current administration’s term is coming to an end, the debate is likely to become more intense.

The policy was introduced under the Kim Dae-jung administration in 1998. Over ten years, however, the circumstances in education have changed a lot. As a matter of fact, university essay tests are playing the role of entrance exams. Every year, the nature of the essay test has been repeatedly debated. In such circumstances, it would be better if universities were allowed to have their own entrance exams.

Some argue that private educational costs will be reduced when individual university entrance exams are allowed. Parents are objecting to it, however, because they are worried about the possible increase in educational costs it would bring. Even if it is allowed, only a few universities will have their own exams. What to lose and what to gain needs to be measured carefully.

Some also argue that it is time to consider allowing universities to accept donations in exchange for admissions. The yearly tuition for some private universities is over 10 million won. The donation system may be a realistic option as universities begin to need more than tuition in their pursuit of better education.

The issue of ranking high schools arose when universities tried to avoid the government’s regulations. It will be resolved if the regulations are loosened and diverse college entrance methods are introduced.

The government’s insistence on the people’s vague feelings against the individual university’s entrance exam shows its educational populism. We hope that the loss and gain of abolishing the policy will be discussed more openly.