Substance, not speed

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Substance, not speed

The admissions officer system, which has been expanded for the upcoming university admissions season, was blasted at the National Assembly audits this week.

There were concerns over what some lawmakers called systematic flaws caused by a hasty effort to improve the admissions system. There is indeed plenty to worry about with this new program, and both ruling and opposition lawmakers raised valid concerns.

First of all, securing the actual admissions officers - which is seen as the key to successfully implementing the system - has been inadequate. This year, there were 5.7 times more spots available for admissions officers than last year, but the actual number of such officers working only increased 1.4 times. And only about two out of 10 officers worked full-time, while 23 universities didn’t even have one admissions officer. At the same time, nearly 40 percent of all officers received only a week of training before they were thrown into action. It’s no wonder, then, that questions have been raised on whether fairness and objectivity, two key aspects of the admissions officer system, can be ensured.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology brought about this mess by hastily pushing for this system. The ministry was obsessed with promoting public education at the expense of private education through its reforms to the admissions system. The goal is to get universities to select students based on their potential and aptitude. But in the process, the ministry overlooked the fact that high schools and universities were not prepared for this change. A survey by the Korean Educational Development Institute showed that 67.9 percent of high school teachers feel the government rushed to introduce the admissions officer system. Many universities have pointed out that the government was overly focused on short-term gains.

The government must now review its policy of blindly pushing for the admissions officer system. Lee Ju-ho, the vice education minister, said the ministry could cut aid funds by 30 percent this year to universities whose fairness in the admissions process comes into question. These schools, he said, also will be excluded from the list of institutions eligible for aid the following year.

But that’s not enough. The ministry basically needs to slow down the implementation of the system so that universities will be able to hire more full-time admissions officers and give them extensive training to build expertise in the field. High schools, too, must be given enough time to facilitate their counseling for students. The secret to the success of the admissions officer system is not speed, but substance.
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