[Letters] Quality educational programs for soldiers

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[Letters] Quality educational programs for soldiers

The first distance learning program for soldiers was developed by the United States Armed Forces Institute. Since 1942, the institute has been developing and providing high school level courses and literacy education in addition to university level courses and vocational training. USAFI’s program, which was also available during the Korean War and the Vietnam War, has helped the soldiers smoothly return to society after war. Recently the institute has developed online educational program that caters to individual soldiers.

The Ministry of National Defense has also been pushing for soldier’s education to help them stay motivated. The ministry expects the army to be revitalized as soldiers voluntarily participate in the educational programs. As of now, 86 percent of soldiers in service are university students on leaves of absence. Naturally, their interest in education and employment after graduation are great.

In order to satisfy such interests, the Ministry has been installing “cyberknowledge information rooms” in army units since 2006 through which soldiers can receive distance education. It also amended related laws so that the soldiers can earn credit hours and certifications for taking courses approved by universities and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

But currently only 61 out of some 350 universities in the nation provide distance courses that soldiers can take. And even the ones provided are mostly limited to liberal art lectures. Recently, there has been heated debates regarding compensating the soldiers for their military service. One solution could be to grant educational expenses to those who desire to study. Another would be to affiliate with civil organizations in order to provide quality educational programs in armies. But above all, we need to come up with a way to make military experience transferable to credit hours or certifications.

Park Hyo-seon, a professor of military studies at Cheongju University
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