[OUTLOOK]Education issues vital in electionJust as there is the saying, "Like father, like son," so there should be another: "Like people, like leader." This saying means that only wise people can produce a wise leader. The British liberal philosopher Bertrand Russell, said that democracy is a system of freely voting for someone you can blame later. But it can be said that democracy is precisely the responsibility of the people to vote for a leader that we don't need to blame afterward. The intellectuals and the media in society play a crucial role in this selection of leadership.
We will soon be holding a presidential election to choose the leader who will guide our country for the next five years. Unfortunately, there has yet to be a presidential candidate who presents any middle- to long-term vision or concrete plan to help the people make the right choice. The candidates seem only bent on speaking ill of their opponents and dwelling in time-consuming and unproductive competition, surfacing only occasionally to throw populism-driven, one-sided proposals at the public in shabby attempts to garner votes. Such proposals will more likely that not turn out to be empty promises.
Therefore, although the time left for us is short, we must try to formulate a desirable leadership for ourselves. We must form our own opinions on what is important in our government policy agenda and demand the presidential candidates to clarify their positions and promises on these issues.
Taking a step further, the media and qualified civic groups should closely examine whether the elected president keeps his promises after the election or not, and continues to let the public know the results of their examinations.
What sort of leadership is needed for our society at this point? As I have always emphasized whenever I had the chance, our country today is at an advantageous position to compete internationally for the first time. If we wisely use what is given to us, we could in the near future find ourselves achieving that long-awaited dream of ours, becoming an advanced country.
If we consider the past, we had no competitive edge during what has now come to be called the "first wave society," or the agricultural society. That is because our land lacked relative competitiveness.
We also put no gains in any competitive superiority during the "second wave" of industrial society due to the weak state of our accumulated capital. However, we have now come to the "third wave society" in which knowledge accumulated in people is the most important element of competitiveness. In a knowledge-based society, our country has a competitive edge that we have never had in the past.
We have human resources abundant with passion for education and with energy, and a dynamic power witnessed during the World Cup. I wrote in an earlier column in this newspaper that we should choose an "education president" in this election. I meant that we should elect a president who acknowledges the importance of education and who would put long-sighted education reform as one of his top priorities.
We should avoid such ridiculous incidents as having education reform being pushed around to make room for short-term real estate policies.
We must repeatedly demand that presidential candidates present their visions and specific policies on education more than any other issues at each debate and other sites of interaction with the people during the remaining campaign period. To improve the quality of elementary and middle school education, we must set a plan to acquire devoted teachers, come up with a solution to the issue of standardizing the level of high schools and gifted children's education, establish an education system that encourages creativity. We also need a system of applying private capital to solve the problems of funding an education budget necessary to implement these reforms. The candidates must be made to state their positions on each of these important issues in education reform.
Of course, this should be accompanied by promises by the candidates on other important policy issues such as politics, economics, foreign relations, national defense and culture.
In particular, the candidates must be asked their positions on how to reform the inefficiencies in the political and governmental sectors that are obstructing the full potential of our national competitiveness. Their opinions on how to improve our inflexible labor market and the unproductive labor-management relations should also be asked.
For a detailed and in-depth examination of the opinions stated by the presidential candidates in the major issues, we must increase the hours of the televised presidential debates to the fullest.
The writer is the chairman of the Institute for Global Economics.
by Sakong Il