[EDITORIALS]Encourage science studentsA survey of 419 natural science and engineering professors and researchers found that just 22 percent would choose the subjects again if given the chance. More than 40 percent said they would rather be lawyers or physicians. In the spring semester this year, 52 engineering students at Seoul National University withdrew from their classes to study Western and Eastern medicine. The subject of the winning entry in JoongAng Ilbo’s feature writing competition for university students was “Korea’s Newton goes to medical college.” This title is symbolic of the situation at Korean universities today.
We cannot afford to sit around and worry about students’ aversion to natural and engineering sciences. Without a national policy to encourage learning in these fields, the country’s future is bound to be gloomy. They are the engine of industrial development and economic growth. The sciences are the lifeline of our economy, but we have talented young minds simply avoiding the fields in favor of medicine, which is believed to offer a stable job and income. This is a national problem.
It is not enough to introduce a quota of government sector jobs for science and engineering graduates. To consolidate high-level government exams now split into technical and administrative fields will not eliminate the alienation felt by science and engineering majors. What is needed is to teach middle- and high school students that industrial activities, and not just lawyers and doctors, give the country jobs and provide the necessities in life for the public. It is also important to open the doors to universities wider and loosen the distinction among specialties. Postgraduate science students should be given greater assistance in terms of academic grants and living allowances.
It would also be a creative solution to train medical students to be skilled practitioners to the degree that patients in the region would flock to Korea for treatment. There should be incentives for foreign students to come to Korea to study in those fields, in the form of scholarships and exemption from residence fees, so their talent in industrial and research positions can be utilized here.