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[Editorial] College Education Took Wrong Means

Posted June. 27, 2007 03:12,   


At a talk with presidents of 152 universities held yesterday, President Roh Moo-hyun asked for cooperation in the government’s admission guideline that places much weight on students’ high school record, saying, “Our education policy must pursue social values that stress national integration, the nation’s economic competitive power, diversity, and equality.” This is based on his rationale that the autonomy of universities can be violated for the sake of public interests and a social attitude cherishing “moral value” will bring about national growth.

It would be welcomed if we could see national growth and social balanced integration by reflecting the school record in 50 percent of student screening work. The government’s plan, the “even opportunity quota system” that expands the share of special admission for students from low-income families to 11 percent from 2009, seems a part of the efforts to narrow the gap between the haves and the have-nots by opening more opportunities to unprivileged students.

However, it is an undeniable fact that students with a first-grade in their school records receive a seventh-grade in the college entrance examination. Narrowing the gap among schools should precede the growth of the national competitive power. If, without presenting practical measures for the improvement of school quality located in poor neighborhoods such as financial support and capable teachers, we just seek the policy that stresses school records, President Roh’s hope that “the nation has many successful figures from humble families,” will be hardly achieved. Regarding the low college admission of poor family students, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recommended early this year that Korea should improve the quality of public education and present measures for the expansion of tuition loans and scholarships.

Even though President Roh Moo-hyun said that this admission policy is based on “national consent,” it is far from the truth. In 2004 when the government announced this plan, college authorities expressed reluctance, saying, “It is difficult to screen students with this new policy,” and on May 7, 2005, first-grade high school students took to the streets to protest this plan. Kim Jin-pyo, then deputy prime minister and minister of Education and Human Resources Development, announced in a statement, “The school record doesn’t make critical difference in college admissions when school record is reflected in 30 percent of admission screening work.”

Other advanced countries are seeking national growth and the high quality of nations’ lives through increasing college autonomy and improving their competitive power. In the case of Europe, many countries are regretting their education policies that lowered their national power and school quality by stressing the equality of college education. Because of this, French President Nicholas Sarkozy declared that as his first reform policy, performance-based allocation system will be introduced in the college budget. This is a lesson that the Korean government must learn.