[Viewpoint] The disease of private tuition fees

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[Viewpoint] The disease of private tuition fees

The entire country has been afflicted with a disease for a very long time: private educational expense. The symptoms begin to show in elementary, middle and then in high schools, but the actual cause can be found elsewhere.

Since going to college is so important in Korea today, the elementary and secondary education systems have undergone several transformations. This is largely because of college admissions policies, which have also been modified several times.

College admission is closely related to college education, so in order to cut down private education expenses, college education needs reform.

Colleges and universities in Korea significantly contributed to nurturing the workforce demanded by the industrialized era in the last century.

Accepting students based on College Scholastic Ability Test scores was not a problem for the standardized, knowledge-centered higher education of the industrialized era. While the level of colleges and universities varied, schools taught similar courses with similar curriculums.

However, the 21st century is a knowledge-based era, and schools now need to produce creative and globally competent students. However, Korean higher education has not yet been able to respond to the call.

American futurist Alvin Toffler pointed out that university education in Korea still remains stuck in the industrialized era. The International Institute for Management Development of Switzerland ranked Korea 51st out of 61 countries in terms of how the college education system is responding to today’s socioeconomic demands.

For Korea to become a truly developed country, we need to provide creativity-driven education rather than merely teaching information through rote learning.

Ethics and moral education need to be realized along with global civil education, and we need to review the college admissions system, college educational curriculum and content, methods of evaluation and financial planning.

The kind of reforms we need should enable colleges and universities to discover the potential to nurture talent and develop a global capability, true humanity and creativity.

Lately, the government has been promoting the university admissions officer system as a means to reform college admission. However, unless college education itself changes, we cannot expect the new system to take root. Schools need to consider talent, creativity, character and potential when selecting students. Picking students based on test scores is not the way forward.

As more colleges and universities offer diversified and specialized curriculums, students will have more options to choose from, and the overheated competition for certain schools will be alleviated.

Today, university evaluation conducted domestically and internationally mainly addresses research performance on graduate programs, not the undergraduate curriculum.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development announced that it will introduce the AHELO (Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcome), an innovative, qualitative evaluation on undergraduate education. The survey will begin in 2011.

The survey will range from traditional multiple choice questions to more in-depth ones to measure students’ logical and analytical thinking as well as problem-solving skills. The survey will compare students’ scores on the test taken after they have entered college with the one they take later at graduation. The results will help estimate the added value of a college education.

The OECD claimed that existing evaluations in fact harm higher education since they do not assess education itself. What we need is more multi-dimensional evaluations, and higher education needs to change accordingly.

No solution to the outrageous cost of private education can be found when colleges and universities offer a uniform curriculum and are ranked based on conventional standards.

The university admissions officer system will only work when we have a reformed, innovative higher education framework responding to the demands of the times, schools providing specialized educational programs and students selected with the key word “diversity” in mind.

Then, the new university admissions system might function properly, and competition for places at universities can cool down.

This scenario would mean that Koreans won’t have to suffer so much from the devastating disease of extortionate private education fees.

*The writer is the president of Handong Global University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Young-gil
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