Admissions chaosKim Shin-il, deputy prime minister and minister of education and human resources development, issued a statement yesterday to ask universities to give more than 30 percent of the weight to high school records in their admissions screening. He used euphemisms, such as “I advise” them to do that “as much as possible,” but it was actually an ultimatum. He formerly used threats in a bid to get universities to accept the new policy, but he stepped back in the face of protests. Many universities had expected their autonomy to expand. But Kim only lowered the weight given to high school records in admissions instead of giving them autonomy.
Korean universities are powerless against the government. The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development interferes in university affairs at will. The ministry changes policies for college entrance exams as it sees fit, and universities do as they are told because they are afraid of the administrative and financial punishments.
Chancellors of universities were called in before President Roh Moo-hyun en masse and had to listen to his sermon. But chancellors and professors of private universities have been protesting the ministry’s policy. That’s because they know high school records are unreliable criteria for choosing students. If universities are forced to give 50 percent weight to high school records, they will have to admit unqualified freshmen and reject superior students. If this occurs, chaos will prevail in college admissions.
The government insisted that universities weigh students’ high school grades as 50 percent of admission screening. When the universities protested, it merely lowered the percentage. This is not a decent solution. It is absurd for the ministry to order universities to ignore academic performance differences among high schools when gaps exist.
University admission policies are nothing to bargain with. The problem cannot be resolved by a mere statement. First, the ministry should persuade the universities. Yesterday, Seoul National University’s faculty council denounced the guideline, calling it unconstitutional. That is right in every sense.
Deputy Prime Minister Kim must step down for creating chaos in university admission policies. The ball is in the court of universities. They must not surrender for the sake of students and for themselves. Each school must decide how much weight students’ high school records will take in admissions and announce them as soon as possible. That is the first step to gaining the autonomy that they have long longed for.