[EDITORIALS]More ministry interference

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[EDITORIALS]More ministry interference

Kim Jin-pyo, the Education Minister, reportedly plans to meet the presidents of major private universities in Seoul, asking them to reduce the weight given to essay tests and increase the importance of high school academic records in 2008’s college admission procedures. Mr. Kim seems to want to put the brakes on the universities’ plans that they announced in December last year: “In the 2008 college admission, we will raise the weight of essay tests and put less significance on high school academic records.”
Although the ministry said that the request will be made as a “recommendation,” the minister seems to be about to “twist the arms of universities,” considering that those who ignore the government’s request are disadvantaged. The minister’s excessive intervention in colleges’ admission procedures is clearly an infringement of their self-rule.
The minister’s idea is far from the reality. According to a survey by Korea Gallup commissioned by the ministry, about one third of parent and student respondents said they do not trust school records. Although the ministry argues, “In 2008 college admission, the credibility of academic records will be enhanced as evaluation will be done based on a comparative basis, not an absolute basis,” there still exist concerns, including “scholastic ability differences among high schools.”
There is no doubt that the College Scholastic Ability Test will have less discriminatory power in evaluating applicants for 2008 college admissions as the test results will be divided into several ranks, rather than specific scores. The colleges cannot but depend on essay tests and interviews. Is the minister’s role to hinder the universities’ efforts to select competitive students? The government’s decision to appoint a minister who had worked in the finance ministry was probably to apply the virtue of economy, or the discipline of competition, to education.
Our universities have already been exhausted by the ministry’s excessive interventions in college admissions. The ministry has enforced a “three no policy,” banning college admissions via donations, high school grading and individual admission tests by universities, and has repeatedly interfered in the universities’ admission procedures. That is why some say that education would be better off without the education ministry.

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