[Viewpoint]Excellence within our grasp

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[Viewpoint]Excellence within our grasp

Lately, the voices protesting the government’s adherence to the “Three Nos” education policy are getting louder, trying to establish a brighter future for Korean education.
The Korean Association of Private University Presidents held a leadership meeting on March 22, and urged presidential hopefuls to promise to scrap the “Three Nos” policy.
Before the last presidential election, I wrote a column titled “Vote now for an education-oriented president” in the JoongAng Ilbo, asserting that we should vote for a president who had the insight and competency to promote true educational reform.
Some argue that under the existing educational system, the Korean economy maintains its competitiveness. Many developing countries envy the growth of the country, they say, so what’s the problem?
The answer is simple. Making elementary education widely available and eliminating illiteracy alone greatly improved the nation’s competitiveness during the farming age or the industrialization period.
However, today, we are living in an age of knowledge-oriented economies, when limitless creativity and advanced knowledge are more important than ever in terms of improving the quality of individual life and national competitiveness.
Therefore, the educational methods and system of the past era should be changed to train and nurture new talents, and we need leadership at the national level to prioritize educational reform.
Citizens are concerned when the administration stubbornly stands by its “Three Nos” policy, which emphasizes the universality of education more than its excellence, and pursues standardization. Unless the current policy accomplishes the level of public education that the citizens expect, the demands for quality private education and study abroad will only increase in Korea, which has such a high passion for education.
The serious sociopolitical concern is that children from the financially burdened class will not benefit from private education and opportunities to study abroad. As a result, the chances for wealth redistribution or social mobility between generations are limited, and the polarization of wealth will get worse.
In other words, the “Three Nos” policy, which according to the administration is necessary to ease the burden of private education costs for the lower class, will ironically result in a legacy of poverty.
And to conclude, the fundamental solution for Korean education can be found in re-establishing public education. In order to do that, additional resources should be secured. However, it is not easy to prepare the resources using taxpayers’ money. That is why the government should prepare a system to utilize the enormous private funds that are now wasted on private education.
The donation-based admission system, which is currently prohibited, can greatly contribute to the scholarships for the financially less privileged, for improvement of the educational environment, for better treatment of teachers, as funding for research and for qualitative improvement of overall education, if properly used.
At the moment, Korea is close to becoming one of the top 10 economies in the world. Its shipbuilding, semiconductors, automobiles and steel are already in the ranks of the world’s best.
What about the educational sector? No Korean university ranked among the top 50 schools in the world. Considering the world-class faculty, high passion for education and excellent students, it can only be deduced that an educational system that restricts autonomy, openness and competitiveness is responsible.
We should scrap the “Three Nos” policy as soon as possible and establish a new educational system that respects competitiveness through autonomy and openness.
We have outstanding human resources and a high passion for education, and in an era of knowledge-based economies, where knowledge and people, not land or capital, are the most important, Korea has an opportunity for the first time in its history to gain advantage in international competition. We need to establish a proper educational system and must not let this rare chance slip by.

*The writer is the chairman and CEO of the Institute for Global Economics. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Sakong Il
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