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[Editorial] ‘Rushed Revolution` in College Admissions

Posted March. 13, 2009 08:10,   


Since the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology announced admission of 150 freshmen solely through interviews and without written tests, many domestic universities are vying to present their own student selection criteria by their admissions officers. Korea University will admit 23.5 percent of freshmen without examination from next year and Yonsei 16.3 percent. Pohang University of Science and Technology will select its 300-member freshmen class without tests as a criterion. SungKyunKwan, Hanyang and Hankuk University of Foreign Studies will also admit more freshmen without tests.

Under the admissions officer system used by most U.S. universities, schools select freshmen by evaluating personality, creativity, potential and aptitude in addition to scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test and high school transcripts. If successfully implemented, the system in Korea will help normalize public school education and reduce the chronic dependence on private education. This requires a cautious approach, however, because rash implementation could cause unexpected results and chaos.

The United States, which introduced the system in the 1920s, has made major investments into fostering admissions officers and has significant expertise in implementation. The country has more than 80 years of experience in appraising students based on extracurricular activities, community service, self-introduction, essays and interviews. American society also has respects each school’s admissions standards and choices. In short, the social capital of trust underlies the relationship between universities and society.

Even if Korean universities plan to give high school principals the authority to recommend students, it is questionable whether the principals will do so using a fair and transparent evaluation system. Also unclear is if parents will accept the results of evaluations that do not use test scores.

Universities seem to be rushing to devise the new admissions system to receive government incentives rather than improving education. The Education, Science and Technology Ministry has offered 23.6 billion won (15.8 million U.S. dollars) in budget support. Accordingly, many universities are taking the bait without sufficient preparation. Critics also say certain universities seek to adopt the new system just to get financial support.

Normally, university entrance policies are announced at least three years in advance. Many high schools and parents are perplexed, as many universities say they will adopt the new system next year. Attention is needed on Seoul National University, which plans to admit just 140 students without administering written tests next year, just 22 more than it did this year.