[EDITORIALS]End school pedigree bias

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[EDITORIALS]End school pedigree bias

The deputy prime minister for education, Han Wan-sang, proposed a plan Tuesday to uproot our practice of putting educational background as one of the most important tools for judging a person's qualifications. For example, Mr. Han would like employers to drop educational background in job application forms required from candidates. His proposal was opposed by other cabinet members and has been shelved. Mr. Han reportedly proclaimed this to be the year for cleansing the preoccupation with and the biases that surround someone's educational background, and proposed plans to reform the business community and people's misguided ideals.

Ours has been a culture that has put educational background as someone's most important qualification, and not many would disagree with Mr. Han's fundamental point. Where you went to school affects almost everything in a person's life, from getting a job to finding a spouse. Since so much in life hinges on entering a prestigious university, competition among students sees no limit each year. Education during off-campus hours has become an obsession that costs an estimated 7 trillion won ($5.3 billion) annually. The "us against them" notion surrounding schools and universities is an outrage that has made its way into more than one of the scandals in today's headlines.

But no matter how urgent the need to correct this misguided practice is, doing so is not something that can be resolved through impulsive measures. To have employers drop educational backgrounds in job application forms is something that has a far-reaching consequence in the way people live. It is an issue that requires considerable public discussion and consultation among affected government agencies. Having bypassed all the necessary steps, Mr. Han has been criticized for being short-sighted in the way he pursues a policy.

The measure to drop educational background from resumes is a risky one in many respects. Educational background is a legitimate consideration that should be distinguished from "educational bias." While the bias is no doubt a problem that needs to be corrected, bringing up our youth with a proper education is an important ideal that must form the foundation of our educational policy. In the increasingly knowledge-based society that the world is, academic proficiency and rearing educated people are key parts in the strengthening of the country's ability to compete in the world. Education is very much a priority in countries like the United States, where President George W. Bush has begun reforming public education. The lists of the best schools selected and announced each year by various organizations and publications are in part to encourage the lower-ranked schools to do better and to raise the overall quality of education in the process.

There is no question that there are differences among universities. When the Education Ministry forces employers to disregard education as a basis in evaluating a person's qualifications, it may eventually bring the standards of college education to a uniformly lower level. The government's job is to formulate a policy that will eliminate educational bias while preserving the spirit of competition. Private employers, for their part, must stop putting a degree from a prestigious school as the basis of everything from hiring to promoting. The role of the public is to recognize individuals' abilities, which are often different from the preconception conveyed by the names of schools.

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