The school that couldTo borrow from an American children’s story, the department of electronic engineering at Kangnung National University is the little school that could. Even though it is far from being an elite university, Kangnung has puffed its way up academia’s toughest mountain, producing 24 students in the last 2 years who won admission to prestigious U.S. graduate schools. This is an extraordinary achievement for a university that previously had a poor reputation among educational snobs. Students with post-graduate degrees from the United States have found jobs in companies such as Intel Research, Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics. The news about Kangnung University is especially encouraging because an increasing number of students do not want to study science and engineering. For instance, a top student at the Pohang University of Science and Technology, one of the most prestigious of its type, recently changed her major to medicine.
The story of the electronic engineering students at Kangnung proves that a school’s efforts can change a young person’s future entirely and motivate them to exceed all expectations. The professors at the department were devoted to their students and the students made extraordinary efforts. The teachers helped students abandon the pessimistic belief that they would not be able to find jobs even if they studied hard. The professors told the pupils that entrance to university is not the end but a new beginning.
The students studied hard. If a class was postponed, they took a supplementary class the next day. They took their tests in the evening because they did not want to substitute a test for a class. The library of the department was open 24 hours a day. The students studied English intensively. Their efforts paid off. Work done on major subjects improved and their average scores on the Test of English for International Communication jumped from 200 points to 800 points.
Ironically, the department focused on sending students to the United States because that was a good way to overcome the stigma of attending an obscure school like Kangnung. In our society, too much emphasis is placed upon educational backgrounds. But nothing can be gained by arguing with the facts. It’s better to prevail by increasing one’s competence. As competence and ability become more important than educational background, the excessive weight put on attendance at an elite school will diminish. Kangnung National University has proved this. Now is the time for other non-elite schools to follow suit.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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