Dumbfounding State of EducationOne after another, new measures are being instituted that will have a tremendous effect on secondary education in Korea. From 2002 universities will be forbidden to conduct their own admission examinations. A plan to standardize high schools is being expanded to include seven cities in the greater Seoul metropolitan area. And the system of college admissions is to be changed in 2005. With so many changes in the offing in addition to the recently lowered standard of the College Scholastic Ability Test, there is mounting unease about what is happening to the state of education in this country.
The Ministry of Education''s plan to disallow universities to administer their own entrance exams goes against the current trend toward deregulation, but it is in line with amendments to the Higher Education Act. The rules now state that beginning with entrance exams for the 2002 school year, private colleges and universities will not be allowed to administer entrance tests, but will be permitted to require applicants to submit essays and be interviewed. If a school is found to be administering its own exam, the minister of education has the right to an injunction and, if the school continues the practice, to reduce subsidies to the institution. This essentially divests the universities of their freedom to select students for admission, and it is only natural that the schools are fighting it tooth and nail.
Expanding the standardization of high schools is another questionable plan. It is in direct opposition to the need to break out of the mold of standardization, which reduces education in all high schools to the lowest common denominator. If anything, we need more independent private schools and special schools for gifted students.
By forbidding in-house exams, the government is infringing upon the autonomy of universities and makes it appear that college admission policies are somehow central to the government''s entire education agenda. Colleges should have the right to select students on the basis of their own criteria. High schools should provide colleges with whatever data they have on the scholastic performance of applicants to assist them in determining which students to admit.
Families with high-schoolers who will be seniors next year are worried that in 2001 high school grades will take on greater importance in the college admission process. On top of that, in 2005 it is probable that the CSAT will be divided into two parts, like the American Scholastic Aptitude Test. Such frequent changes in the system have everyone confused.
The plan to expand high-school standardization needs to be reconsidered. We should learn from the problems that standardization has caused so far and regear the education system toward improving the international competitiveness of our students, broadening the range of their education, and raising their level of creativity. More private schools should be established, and curricula should be improved. With this in mind, the 7th Educational Curriculum should be supplemented.
Our educational system cannot be allowed to stumble along or even retrogress any longer. We must set up an educational system suited to the age of globalization. The centralized educational authorities must relinquish some of their powers and guarantee the autonomy of the universities. The universities must exercise their rights with an acute sense of responsibility. The competitiveness of secondary schools is as important as that of the colleges. We must not jeopardize the quality of education in the name of "equality" with an policy that encourages students to study less.