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[Outlook]Failing education

While Korea was arguing whether egalitarianism or elite education is best, other Asian countries have taken great strides.

May 21,2008
According to the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2008, Korea ranked 53rd out of 55 countries in how education reflects social and economic demands in society, and 39th in educational system.

Singapore ranked first and Hong Kong 15th in both categories. While Korea was preoccupied with the old debate as to whether egalitarianism or elite education is best, other Asian countries have taken great strides forward, leaving us behind.

Some countries in the region have long surpassed Korea in terms of education quality and have started to compete on the global stage.

Among the world s top 200 universities listed by The Times, the National University of Singapore was 33rd and Insead MBA school in Singapore, eighth.

The latter teaches local students and students from some 50 countries. The China European International Business School was ranked highest among Asian MBA schools and one of the world s top 10. The University of Hong Kong ranked 18th.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reported in 2007 that Hong Kong University of Science and Technology offers the world s best Executive MBA course.

The governments of Malaysia, Dubai and Qatar are also working hard to formulate world-class education policies.

Let s look at what these countries have in common.

First, they have clear educational strategies. Both Singapore and Hong Kong have ambitions to become regional hubs for education.

In 1997, Singapore started a World Class Universities program and from 2003 the country has carried out a Global School House project to increase engagement with foreign universities and build its campuses overseas.

Hong Kong s target has changed from a becoming a financial to a logistics hub to an educational hub. Hong Kong s competitiveness in education has surpassed others in Asia.

Its facilities, programs and faculty are now approaching world-class status.

In 2003, China set a policy to become a human resources power house and its government is implementing policies to produce talented people. To advance higher education and secure talented human resources, the country is running its Projects 211, 985, 111 and an 11.5 plan.

Second, these countries educational programs bear good brand names and offer education courses that can draw overseas students and investment in education.

They have steadily introduced international systems for their universities and students to make their credits recognized in overseas universities and enable their students earn degrees from prestigious overseas universities while studying at home.

Malaysia has a foreign university campus within its borders so Malaysian students can earn degrees from a foreign school without having to move abroad.

In another program, international students take courses at domestic universities.

Because of this, many foreign students flock to Malaysia, which was formerly known as an underdeveloped country in terms of education.

Dubai Knowledge Village in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, hosts the campuses of 21 elite schools from overseas.

Education City in Qatar has attracted prestigious schools from around the world to form a global education cluster.

These countries foster education as one of the countries strategic industries.

What should Koreans do now? We need an education strategy that reaches beyond Asia.

We need to draw a blueprint for the future.

First, we need a strategy to produce human resources for the future in order to respond to social changes.

In the future, human resources should be trained to be competent in a global society, understand multiple cultures, deliver opinions and ideas logically and cooperate with others.

We also need to work to develop the quality of our education system by introducing systems from advanced countries.

Like Singapore, Dubai and Qatar, Korea can build itself to offer a high level of quality education.

Lastly, education must be regarded as a main industry in our country. Countless Korean students go abroad to study when they are still very young.

This means the Korean education system exists just out of formality and it will gradually lose its raison d etre. We must make greater efforts to support our education system and make it world-class.

We should do our best to prevent our education from blocking the way for our country to advance beyond Asia toward the entire world.

*The writer is a senior researcher at the Korean Educational Development Institute. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Gu Ja-oek


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