More carrot, less stick

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More carrot, less stick

While the Roh Moo-hyun administration has been playing hide and seek with colleges, students and their parents are agonizing just five months ahead of the College Scholastic Ability Test.
The administration called a ministerial meeting yesterday and decided to suspend subsidies to colleges that attempt to emasculate school grades by lowering the weight they are given in the admission process.
The warning says that a college that gives perfect points to all students within the top 11 or 45 percent or reduces the weight given to high school academic records would not receive government subsidies, which amount to 1.6 trillion won ($1.7 billion.) In response, colleges that had planned to reduce the weight given to grades backtracked, saying, “We have not confirmed the policy yet.”
Colleges are partly responsible for the confusion. They said in March that they would accept the administration’s guidelines, which recommend that colleges raise the weight to 50 percent of the overall admission criteria. Having done this, they should not confuse parents and students who have studied based on the guidelines.
Their plan to give equal points to all students within the top 45 percent of their graduating class cannot be considered anything besides a shallow attempt to attract more students from specialized high schools where elite students compete with each other.
It is natural for a college to try to attract competitive students. But without reducing the weight given to academic records, colleges can select these students by utilizing the national scholastic ability test or Korean essay tests offered by each college.
Selecting students based entirely on their academic records should also be reconsidered. The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, which decided to select students based on their personalities, creativity and leadership starting from next year, would be a good model. The mission of colleges is to educate students to become able people who are competitive internationally.
Of course, the administration is responsible for bigger faults. It is not appropriate to threaten colleges with doubts about whether high school academic records are a proper measure of students’ scholastic ability. The administration cannot cure every problem by imposing administrative or financial sanctions.
Colleges have to be allowed to decide their own admissions policies. They also have to try to educate capable students. That is the way to save public education.
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