[Viewpoint] Give college reforms a chance

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[Viewpoint] Give college reforms a chance

Beginning with university applications for temporary admission, the university entrance exam season for 2010 is now in full swing.

In particular, as the admissions officer system is scheduled to be conducted by more than 80 universities beginning this year, some media reported a growing concern over increasing levels of anxiety amongst students and parents.

According to a series of media reports, private education enterprises have been trying to jump on the education bandwagon and are bent on penetrating new markets.

They are trying to seduce people into spending money on their consulting services for the newly launched screening system.

But recent media reports are distorting the essence of the admissions officer system and encouraging the spread of private education.

The general purpose for the admissions officer system is to deter the acceptance of students manufactured in the private education market into universities.

In addition, the role of the admissions officer is to prevent factors - “well-coordinated self-introductions,” “splendid portfolios,” or “well-prepared eloquence” - from becoming a preferred element in the screening tests.

Previous generations of students might have been able to improve their college entrance exam scores and high school grades, which constitute an integral part of university admissions.

However, correlation between entrance scores and overall academic performance at a university demonstrates that the existing policy for the recruitment of students in order of merit is improper and has limitations in choosing students suitable for university education.

Instead, academic performance at universities was found to be deeply dependent on the following questions: how diligently schools work to help students excel in their subjects and whether students actively participate in non-curricular activities.

Therefore, there is no room for any doubt that the admissions officer system is the best policy to recruit talented students in a just and fair manner and to enable experts to make a comprehensive judgment on an applicant’s curricular or non-curricular activities in school, and his achievements.

Naturally, universities should make the effort to attain the goal of helping the system work properly to keep private education under control and save our burdened public education, consequently contributing to keeping university education on the right track of healthy development.

Above all, although differences may exist among universities poised to introduce the admissions officer system, I want to believe that no university is obliged to implement such a system at the request of the government to lure more candidates into their universities, against their will.

In this vein, it is time for universities to present the public with a clear vision of how it will attract and retain more creative talent in light of the university’s foundation spirit and disclose that information to candidates and parents. It is the only way to help relieve their stress and anxiety.

In addition, we should spare no effort to filter out applicants equipped with the so-called “specifications” created by private education entities during the screening procedure. It is within the boundaries to say that success or failure of the admissions officer system depends on our concerted effort.

Self-motivated talented students cannot be made by cram schools.

Heavy reliance on private education will make students become passive learners and lack originality, which is required to propel them into a higher plane.

The reason behind the implementation of the system is to recruit active students who can pave their own way based on self-paced learning.

The creation of voluntary education programs by enhancing a supportive social atmosphere is desperately needed for the development of society.

It is my sincere expectation that the smooth operation of the system will effectively guarantee that Korea’s anti-patriotic private education fever will cease to exist soon.

Interested parties of university admissions should also play a pivotal role. Candidates and parents may ask a question directly to the university they want to enter, which will enable them to have easier access to more effective and precise information rather than having to spend a huge amount of money on consulting services.

In addition, we should bear in mind that driving our children into the corner of conventional private education will ruin their future in the long term. Ordinary high schools should overhaul their curriculum to offer customized education programs based on respective student needs for enhancing their self-development.

We should not cast our burden of nurturing talented people on the private education market.

In addition, there is a need to record observations about students in the registry of students in the most precise and detailed manner possible and actively use it in guiding students in their studies.

Still, many candidates and parents feel anxious about their futures ahead of the imminent period of applications for university admissions in 2010. University interested parties and the education authority should shoulder a greater degree of responsibility for this.

However, we should recognize that the overheated debate about the new admissions system is causing a growing sense of anxiety, rather than constructive criticisms or suggestions for the system’s smooth operation, and could lead to the rapid expansion of private schooling in turn.

Reforms in university admissions should be achieved by all means. We can yield tangible results through the successful implementation of the admissions officer system.


The writer is the president of Pohang University of Science and Technology. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Baik Sung-gi

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