[Viewpoint]Ministry is ignoring a brisk wind

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[Viewpoint]Ministry is ignoring a brisk wind

Despite constant pleas from presidents and admission directors at major universities to abolish the “three nos” and the essay rules regarding college entrance exams, the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development has not responded recently.
Does the government think the present college entrance policy is the best one?
Is there no relationship between college entrance policies and reality, in which a great number of students ― even at the elementary school level ― go abroad to study?
Don’t they go abroad because it is too hard to study in Korea and no sufficient rewards or achievements are guaranteed for their efforts? Don’t they turn their eyes to foreign colleges, where their efforts can bring more results?
On March 28, heads of admissions offices at major colleges and universities gathered together and decided to submit their suggestions to the Education Ministry.
The essence of the suggestions to abolish the essay guidelines, among other things, was to ask the government to stop driving all universities toward uniform, downward standardization and give each of them room to move forward with their own visions.
The gist of the recommendation is that universities and colleges get the autonomy to recruit students to match their varying development strategies.
Domestic universities have been trying to differentiate themselves amid fierce competition at home and abroad. The problem lies in the government’s denial of the differences between them.
Most universities have undertaken strategies for globalization, but they vary widely.
Some universities follow a global strategy by adding more English lectures, others invite foreign professors and students from abroad and still others create dual degree partnerships with foreign counterparts.
Once in college, then, students cannot help but listen to lectures in English and have more opportunities to study abroad as exchange students.
Does it go with the current trends to ban universities from testing English comprehension in college entrance essay exams?
The government contends that if the full-length essay writing in the college entrance exams is reinstated, the public education system, swept by the storms of private education, would collapse and eventually the monopoly of higher education by some classes would be aggravated.
But universities are arguing for the revival of full-length essay writing in college entrance exams that the government does not like.
The essence of their demands regarding essays is that the regulations must be eased so each university or college can use the essay tests and interviews according to their own characteristics.
Unlike the full-length essay writing in the college entrance exams, the essay test system will assess students’ comprehensive ability to think.
If just the essay guidelines are abolished, the autonomy of universities to recruit students will grow considerably.
Recently, the wind of decentralization in colleges and universities has blown stronger and stronger. The essence of decentralization is the introduction of an independent management system at each college and the intensified competition as a result.
That phenomenon derived from a sense of crisis from the old-fashioned management system, which distributes resources equally to different departments and colleges just because they are in the same university. That method undermines each college’s effort to be competitive.
Now universities are entrusting a great deal of authority to the deans of colleges and adjusting related administrative schemes to empower that trust. The decentralization winds are blowing out of a sense of urgency by universities facing such fierce foreign and domestic competition fearing they cannot secure their survival any longer with centralized control, uniform management or executive systems. But the Education Ministry, which formulates and supports a macro-policy for college entrances, may not yet share this perception of the times.
The government and universities should solve problems one by one through open-minded dialogue, not through checks and criticisms as they do now.

*The writer is a professor of communication and director, Office of Admissions at Sookmyung Women’s University.

by Park Chun-il

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