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[Op-Ed] Meister High Schools

Posted January. 16, 2009 07:58,   


Choo Dong-yeop, 19, who will graduate from an engineering high school this year, has given his paycheck to his parents. He got hired two weeks ago by Samsung Electro-Mechanics, a company which many college graduates want to enter. Choo was one of 112 award winners in a skills competition hired by Samsung Electro. He probably does not envy other college graduates because many of them are unemployed. Choo said he will keep studying to acquire more knowledge and skills, not just to get a degree, saying, “You can go to college while working.”

Those hired by large companies directly after graduating from engineering high schools do not worry about college because they can earn a degree through the company. Faculty, including professors from other universities, come to the company to teach staff, which saves them time and money. When they complete a course, they get a college degree. Geoje Technology High School, known for its high job placement rate, has a contract with Samsung Heavy Industries. Once employed, graduates can continue to study at Samsung Heavy Industries Institute of Technology while working.

Engineering and agriculture high schools will be raised to another level next year. Meister high schools, which will get intensive financial support from the government, will be designated and students will be selected to enter them. Tuition will be free and male students can defer their military duty when employed and can complete their military obligation as a specialist. They no longer need to compromise their career due to military service. Nine high schools - Sudo Electrical and Technical High School; Busan Automotive High School; Gyeongbuk Machinery and Technical High School; Wonju Information and Technical High School; Chungbuk Semiconductor High School; Hapduk Industrial High School; Gunsan Mechanical and Technical High School; Gumi Electronic and Technical High School; and Geoje Technology High School – are preparing to open. When all 50 meister schools are designated, they will become prestigious high schools producing highly qualified graduates.

For highly qualified people, getting a good job now is as difficult as passing through the eye of a needle. Many of them say they will play down their credentials if they have to. It is even taboo to ask people in their 50s and 60s whether their children are employed. A child earning money while studying at college is considered the best child. If parents are worried that their children will continue living off them after college, sending their offspring to a meister high school is worth considering. Korea can become a truly advanced society only when meister school graduates succeed as well as those hailing from gifted and independent high schools.

Editorial Writer Park Yeong-kyun (parkyk@donga.com)