[VIEWPOINT]College reform needs much effort

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[VIEWPOINT]College reform needs much effort

One elementary school in the United States has a day each year when all students wear their coats the wrong way. The children easily get tired and always want to play around. That is why this school made this “wrong way around day.” The students are all happy and have fun that day.
Students are the most precious asset of our society, and education is leading their minds in the right direction.
The stationery shops around elementary schools here sell all kinds of stationery and sweets. One kind of candy is called Viagra. According to the explanation on the package, if you eat it with the person you like, it makes you want to kiss someone right away.
It is regrettable to think how people are trying to make money off such things.
More than that, it is a pity that teachers, parent associations and education-related civic organizations that should be leading the minds of children in the right direction are not doing much.
The Korea Food and Drug Administration announced a few days ago that it would revise related laws and systems to regulate the production and sale of such products to children.
If the government has to act on such small things as this, we need to increase the number of civil servants a couple of times more. And the government control and regulation certainly come with many side effects.
A married couple who fought often had a daughter who attended a high school. The daughter told her mother to stop fighting all the time or just get a divorce. The mother replied that she wanted to, but then her daughter would become a girl without a father.
The daughter then said that she did not mind living without a father, and that she would just think of her father as an “ajeossi” (meaning “uncle” in Korean).
The next day, she called her father “ajeossi” out of the blue. Not knowing why, her father’s eyes grew wide with surprise. The daughter explained that she was just practicing because she would probably have to start calling him that soon. Imagine how shocked her father was.
Students are sensitive; this was evident during the candlelight protest held by 10th-grade students. The students probably think that the unprincipled university admission policy of the government is too much of a burden for them.
The university admission policy should have started from a fundamental rule.
For instance, college entrance examinations should be left to each university, while the government is in charge of supportive measures such as preventing cheating on admissions tests or making sure that high school curricula remain competitive.
The administration of a university is in a similar situation. Many universities are having a hard time because of a decrease in the population, which results in a decrease in the number of students applying for university admission.
Quite a few universities are in danger of shutting down altogether. The government cannot increase the number of university applicants. Each university has to overcome the crisis on its own.
A restructuring of universities is destined to take place even without government intervention. This should be done only under the universities’ free will and choice according to the demand of their customers, not by the regulations related to higher education.
A few top-ranking universities of this country weren’t the government’s creation. They achieved those rankings when universities themselves made prolonged efforts to produce elite graduates, and so high school graduates with stellar academic records entered these schools.
Education policy does not need uniform standards and latent regulations, but it will be sufficient when it presents a standard of guidance and instruction.
Universities have no other choice but to increase their competitiveness. From an extreme point of view, schools that lose in the competition will have to close their doors. The market theory applies in the society of universities too, and the government’s higher education policy simply needs to create an environment where this market theory can function properly.
The Ministry of Education has decided, as its policy direction, that all universities, excluding 15 that concentrate more on research, should become schools that produce industrial human resources, with the goal of achieving a 100-percent employment rate of their graduates.
This is probably a good direction to take. In order to achieve this goal, creating an actual environment of linking education with industry is more important than regulations.
Our entire society, including schools, parents and the Ministry of Education, is responsible for making students study hard. But adults should make a continuous effort, without making students and schools feel pressed, to let schools teach students in earnest, while showing students how to study on their own.
After all, not all adults should be called “ajeossi,” instead of father or teacher.

* The writer, a former minister of state for political affairs, is the dean of Yong-In Song Dam College. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Dong-ik
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