[VIEWPOINT]Tearing Down Ivied Walls of IgnoranceThe competitiveness of Korea's human resources falls far behind the competitiveness of our economy as a whole. The main reason behind the gap lies in the excessive regulations imposed by the government, which have forced universities to adhere strictly to the boundaries set between institutions of higher learning. The regulations confine universities to the comforts of their own boundaries where there is no competition.
Just as consumers are able to buy quality products at market prices in an unfettered international commerce, a borderless university system gives students the opportunity to gain access to quality education at a competitive price and convenient place.
Education without borders is a student-centered concept that refers to the expedient delivery of the best knowledge at the lowest cost to students. Universities without borders, which we should pursue as the ideal objective, would be made possible only when the divides between suppliers and consumers of education are discarded.
Education without borders were available only partially in the past when only off-line lectures were practiced. For example, universities in the United States that are located outside city centers, rent buildings in the heart of the city to provide education programs such as master of business administration courses for people working in the city.
In the United States, universities often establish satellite learning centers that are easily accessible to students who would be inconvenienced by the commute to universities in outlying areas.
Recently, the graduate school of business administration at a Michigan university rented space in a Seoul building and sent professors to teach Korean students. By dosing so the university has minimized the time and expenses needed for Korean students' stay in the United States.
The positive effects of universities moving to be closer to their students are greater when the students are working people who need continuing education in field that does not demand a laboratory or extensive investment. This concept works in countries like Korea, where workers are concentrated in cities and most universities are located on the city outskirts.
The ideal of a university without boundaries can be more perfectly realized through the Internet and telecommunication technology. The Internet enables professors to contact students and students to reach professors from anywhere and at all times.
Students can listen to lectures at a time and place suited for their schedules using the Internet. They can also listen to lectures given by professors at other universities or companies. Lectures, once confined within the four walls of the classroom, can now be made public through the Internet. The Internet enables the best professors to reach out to students and provide them with the benefits of learning unhindered by time and space.
The ratio of professors to students, which has traditionally been used to gauge the quality of education, has become meaningless. As such, the Internet has the power to demolish boundaries that used to separate students from professors, professors from the university and one university from another.
In an education environment without borders, only the universities and professors that teach well will survive, generating competition among professors and universities to teach better. In the end, this enhances the quality of education being provided.
When universities teach students beyond the limitations of time and space, the absolute number of those receiving education increases and the competitiveness of human resources is augmented. To realize education without borders, universities should be able to freely move to where students are.
However, universities in Korea can teach only a limited number of students set by the government at a government-designated address. Such regulations do not reflect at all the developments of new teaching methods that use the Internet, the various and dynamic demands made by enterprises on universities, the variations in the scale of education and research facilities in different fields, nor the qualitative differences in education that depend on the qualifications of the faculty.
The government is even setting quotas on special graduate schools that are aimed at providing continuing education and at developing the experiences of working people.
Universities in the United States are already freely entering the South Korean education market in the areas of business administration and information technology. Fortunately, our government is not imposing any regulations on these institutions. To enhance the competitiveness of human resources in our country, the government should not regulate them in the future either.
Instead, the government should quickly discard regulations or improve them so that restrictions on the place of education and the number of students being educated do not keep Korea from gaining competitiveness.
The writer is a professor of business administration at Ajou university.
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