Hands-off education

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Hands-off education

Speaking on the public education station, President Roh Moo-hyun said that unless the “three nos” policy on the university entrance system is upheld, the country’s public education system could collapse. The three nos policy refers to the government’s ban on schools holding their own admittance tests, ranking students differently according to which high schools they attend and admitting students based on donations.
The president explained that should universities be allowed to give their own entrance exams, they would make the questions so hard that students would be forced to rely more on private supplementary education rather than their schools. Since such private education costs money, the president reasoned that only rich children would go to good universities and that would make this society even more polarized.
The real problem with our education system is that it is obsessed with standardization. It is only natural that some students do better than others. The role of our education system is to make sure that the bright ones excel and that the others don’t lag behind too much. Any compulsory standardization ignoring this simple truth is bound to fail.
Universities must be given the autonomy to decide their own entrance policies. Individual university entrance exams should be allowed so that schools can implement creative and diverse methods, according to their educational goals, to see which students are most academically capable.
If more diversity is allowed, wouldn’t students stop relying on a private education system that is geared to make one win in the standardization system?
President Roh praised our education system as going well, but unfortunately, all signs say otherwise. Over the last four years, the private education market has grown bigger and more expensive. The number of students leaving the country to study abroad has increased significantly.
Parents say that it is getting more and more difficult to give their children the education they need. The president should first apologize for the dismal present before giving a rosy outlook of the future.
In more advanced countries, the president and the prime minister rarely step forward to directly intervene in university entrance systems. This is because they respect the autonomy of the universities. The students and universities in those countries seem to do fine without the president’s intervention. Our education will only survive if the president changes his mind.
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