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[Opinion] Education Ministry Still Obstinate on School Grades

[Opinion] Education Ministry Still Obstinate on School Grades

Posted September. 06, 2007 07:28,   


Shortly after the Korean Council for University Education released its admissions plan for the year 2008 for the nation’s 199 four-year universities last Tuesday, the Education Ministry stealthily distributed press releases explaining its position. It said the ministry would give unfavorable treatment to those universities failing to comply with government guidelines for the normalization of public education in terms of administration and financial support. The ministry intends to penalize a number of prestigious private universities in the metropolitan Seoul area for weighting high school records less than the guidelines suggested.

Education Minister Kim Shin-il backtracked on the remarks he made two months ago that he would let universities decide the reflected percentage of high school academic records for admission, and that punishing universities for opposing the government’s plan wasn’t appropriate. At the time, the ministry threatened to cut off financial support unless universities weighted school records up to 50 percent in their admissions assessments. But faced with strong opposition from professors and the public, it drew back its plan and requested universities to gradually reach the target rate starting from 30 percent. Now, the ministry has broken its promise again.

The ministry said it would put restrictions on universities starting next February when the government changes. It’s curious why it chose that time when it is not certain who will be the next president. Some say it is an empty threat aimed at keeping face, and others say the ministry is toeing Cheong Wa Dae’s line. With college entrance exams around the corner, third-year high school students and their parents are confused about how to prepare for the exam.

The Education Ministry is enormously powerful in that it has the right to distribute various permits to universities and colleges. Some high-ranking officials of the ministry in charge of giving permission for cyber universities were arrested last Sunday for taking bribes worth 220 million won from university officials, which is a prime example of the ministry’s “regulation power.” At a time when the nation’s leading private universities located in the metropolitan Seoul area are eager to establish law schools, senior Education Ministry official didn’t rule out the possibility of relating the reflected percentage of student records to selecting universities that will have law schools. As long as regulations imposed by the Education Ministry continue to stifle domestic universities, the time when they join the ranks of world-class universities will be far off.

Kwon Sun-taek, Editorial Writer, maypole@donga.com