University autonomyLee Myung-bak’s administration-in-waiting has many tasks ahead in the education field, such as enhancing competitiveness in universities and public schools. Reforms in the university entrance system are urgently needed as the current system puts countless students, parents and colleges in trouble. President Roh Moo-hyun pursued the goal of an egalitarian education system, so his policy for the university entrance system was full of regulations. Wrongs must now be fixed as soon as possible to avoid more unnecessary chaos in the college entrance system.
The national College Scholastic Ability Test and the new grading system must be fixed immediately. For the past three years, students had a hard time with the current university entrance system. Private tutoring demands have surged. There were many procedures that did not make sense. As a result, the new grading system became the subject of a legal dispute and many people believe it should be discarded or at least complemented by other measures.
When the government revises the university entrance system, it should be announced three years in advance. In the new grading system, critical flaws have now been revealed. It has proven to be unfair, unreasonable and inaccurate. It lacks the ability to discern differences in students’ ability. The president-elect said during the campaign that the grading system should be changed because it causes serious trouble in university admissions and makes many students suffer.
The right to recruit students must be handed back to universities, as in advanced countries. If the university entrance system is liberalized, there will be a variety of ways to recruit students, and then the College Scholastic Ability Test and high school grades will count for less and there will be less demand for costly private tutoring.
Lee declared that unnecessary intervention in both financing and student recruitment would be abolished and that universities would be guaranteed a maximum degree of autonomy. But he presented a three-step measure before giving universities the right to select their own students. He also said he would liberalize the universities only when they are competent enough to recruit students without resorting to their own tests and when they have established the necessary institutions to do so. This is hard to understand.
The core of university autonomy in student recruitment lies with their own tests. Not allowing universities to have their own admission tests is at odds with autonomy. Last month, the Korean Council for University Education said that the right to select students and to run universities must be given to the universities themselves in order to boost competitiveness. We have emphasized that regulations and the egalitarian policy must be discarded in favor of autonomy and competition to revive public schools. The president-elect should not forget the hopes for our education system. He must trust the universities’ abilities and work toward real autonomy.