[VIEWPOINT]National competitiveness begins in school

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[VIEWPOINT]National competitiveness begins in school

Education should be planned on a long-term basis. Therefore, education policy should be formulated through continuous research, bearing in mind the country’s distant future. Foresight makes policies clear, feasible, realistic and sustainable.
But this does not hold true of the present administration’s education policy. During just three and a half years since the “participatory” government took office, the post of deputy prime minister and minister of education and human resource development has changed hands seven times. Each time, education policies have been shaken. Therefore, people hope that Kim Shin-il, the newly appointed deputy prime minister and education minister, will reflect his convictions uncompromisingly with a sense of responsibility and mission.
A country’s national competitiveness is in direct proportion to its competitiveness in scientific and technological research. To raise its research competitiveness, it is essential to nurture talented people.
However, as a result of downward standardization, the quality of the incoming generation of college students has fallen. By pursuing a single, uniform development model, universities have lost their competitiveness.
To enhance the quality of domestic universities, more than anything else, the government should let them find ways to survive by competing among themselves, allowing them autonomy.
We should not argue against the main college entrance examination system, the system of ranking high schools and permitting less talented students to enter college if they can donate funds to the school. Instead, it will be far more beneficial for the future of the country to prepare a policy that can improve competitiveness by making the best of their strong points and complementing the short points of those systems.
Rather than distributing resources unconditionally to solve the problem of polarization, allowing universities to be equipped with competitiveness for themselves, through selection and concentration and merger and acquisition, will strengthen their competitiveness and promote national competitiveness, as well.
In particular, engineering and science colleges need to increase their research competitiveness and modernize their engineering education.
To effectively modernize engineering education, it is important for universities to carry out education and research at the same time, emphasizing experimentation and practice, securing interdisciplinary cooperation and receiving outside evaluation, including the accreditation of engineering education together with research that has great academic and industrial potential.
To raise the research competitiveness of universities, several changes are needed.
First, universities should build a support system to expand their research base. They should reorganize the undergraduate system and try their best to open and support newly integrated fields of study as the foundation for a research system centered on interdisciplinary studies.
Also, it is desirable to expand support programs for new researchers and post-doctorate trainees to facilitate international exchanges, and constitute a global consultation body to invite foreign engineering and science colleges, research institutes and businesses.
Second, it is necessary to develop specified models according to the research capacity of universities ― in other words, to give play to specific strengths of universities to find their place as globally innovative universities, regionally innovative universities or region-based universities.
Through this effort, talented people who connect industry and the academic community can be fostered; technological development is possible based on the collaboration between industry and academic circles; and technological transfer and application of research results into business can be stimulated.
Third, research management systems should be improved. Compensation for chief and participating researchers’ work should become realistic, standards for calculating indirect expenses by cost accounting should be introduced and the research management function of research institutes should be reinforced.
Fourth, turning research results into business should be promoted. In the past, universities conducted only “research and development” but now “research and development” must change to “research, business and development,” reflecting the intertwined goals of experimentation and application.
To turn research results into business, it is necessary to establish a support system to create new industries through industry-based learning and to build an innovation network to promote exchanges between the main players of innovation.
South Korea has yet to enter the ranks of advanced countries. Although Kim Jin-pyo, the former deputy prime minister and education minister, declared that he would make 15 world-class research-centered universities during his term in office, he left his position without realizing this goal.
But because this goal is indispensable for our country to join the ranks of advanced countries, we must pin our hopes on the new deputy prime minister of education.

* The writer is the president of Pohang University of Science and Technology. Translation by the JoongAng Daily Staff.

by Park Chan-mo
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