[EDITORIALS]Competitive madnessTwenty-two trillion won ($18.6 billion) is being paid by parents for their children’s education outside of formal schools every year. A large portion is for off-campus tutoring in preparation for scholastic competitions. Those competitions are the culprits that force students to cram ― they sometimes try to learn an entire school year’s curriculum in advance; some parents force their children to study middle- or even high-school subjects while they are still in elementary school. Some students even take expensive private lessons in order to pass evaluation tests required to enroll in classes at a cram school with a good record in those scholastic competitions. The reason: Success in competitions is a shortcut to a seat at a university.
Colleges award additional placement points on their entrance examinations or give scholarships to competition winners. Although the purpose and the methods may be right and reasonable, there can be side effects. As the number of students who enter universities increase because they won competitions, new competitions sprouted in large numbers; there were 765 in 2001.
Publishing houses, media outlets, other private institutions and almost all universities hold competitions in more than 20 scholastic areas, including essays, math, foreign languages, arts and sports. Naturally, the quality of competition is low, and disputes over impartiality break out. The original purpose of discovering potential talents is neglected because of fevered competition among the organizers. Seoul National University decided not to reflect competition results other than those of the School Olympiads held in Korea and elsewhere beginning with applications they will accept for its freshman class in 2005.
Educational authorities should introduce some order to straighten things out. We need fair and reasonable criteria to solve the current problems. If such rules are followed, students and parents will accept the results of competitions and their credibility will be restored. Objectivity and fairness on the part of institutes that issue certificates must be checked and assured.