Take pride in engineeringThe technical college of Seoul National University wanted to hire new professors, but couldn’t employ any because none of the applicants were good enough. This scenario happened for the first time, but the college has had difficulty hiring professors for several years because talented people do not want to work for Seoul National University and in some cases they do not want to work in Korea at all. Our country has few natural resources, so we need to nurture talented people in the engineering and technology fields. But as it is hard to attract professors to teach gifted youngsters, the future of our country seems worrisome.
The basic reason is that our society does not treat people well who work or study in the engineering and technology fields. A poll carried out months ago revealed that students in technical colleges at prestigious universities prefer to be medical doctors, civil servants and patent lawyers, and half of them were thinking seriously about changing their majors. Many talented youths go abroad to study and do not come back to Korea after they finish their studies. They say they made the decision to stay abroad because Korean society looks down on engineers and scientists and because jobs in engineering and technology fields are insecure. These fields are about to sink at any moment.
Another problem is that our education is old-fashioned. Seoul National University pointed out that there is no good system to attract talented people. In the university, achievement or competence is less appreciated, so young talented people do not work at the university. As long as the elite university remains a national university, a government body, it is hard to expect it to undertake epoch-making reform. Such reform can be made when the school becomes a corporate body and has autonomy. Many talented people who study abroad say that they will send their children and wives abroad for better schooling because Korea emphasizes an egalitarianism-oriented education.
In the 21st century, other countries do their best to train and hire smart people and reform education systems, a requirement to boost a country’s competitiveness. For two years, for example, China has been pursuing a plan to hire 1,000 talented people from around the world at its universities to make the country a center for research and development. Meanwhile, Korea’s talented people leave the country. We need to reform our education system and build a culture and institutions in which talented people in engineering and technology fields can work with pride.