[EDITORIALS]Professors get free ride

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[EDITORIALS]Professors get free ride

The professor emeritus who stands at the lectern not for his academic competence but for his political influence. The soon-to-retire professor who is still teaching computer programming languages that were cutting-edge in the 1980s. The young professor who barely knows what he is teaching. The adjunct professor who misses every other class.
This is the portrait of academics in the field of engineering in Korea, according to elite engineering students who participated in a “Discussion on Engineering Education for Next-Generation Leaders,” held recently by the National Academy of Engineering of Korea. Of course, not all engineering professors fall into these categories, but that does not make the situation any less tragic. It is deplorable that we Koreans expect to produce a world-class university while we let engineering education slide ― engineering, the very field that can lead us to the future.
The seniority system among professors is a major reason behind the current crisis. Academic evaluations do exist, but the students claimed that they are useless. Because of the increasing prevalence of professors from the same university and/or major, older professors of mediocre competence are able to exercise absolute power and influence. Meanwhile, bright young professors are often assigned classes outside their specialty in deference to seniority, and they find it difficult to introduce new concepts or methods.
It is no wonder that students complain that it is nearly impossible to find any sort of dynamism in academia. That is not confined to the engineering field ― it is a deep-rooted problem in Korean universities in general.
As a solution, students demand that academic evaluations be open to the public, as they are in the United States, but universities say the the students are “crossing the line of acceptable student behavior.”
This situation can only result in devastating losses not only for the students and the school itself, but also for corporations and for the nation as a whole.
Universities must listen to the students’ justifiable requests and improve the evaluation system.
Only through such changes can trust be deepened within universities and the quality of education be enhanced.
The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development needs to stop merely talking about strengthening the academic evaluation system ― it needs to provide real solutions through which effective evaluation can take root.
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