We should keep it goingThe biggest change in the country’s college admissions was made in 2007 when the college admission officer system was introduced. Skepticism was high at the time that Korea would not be able to stabilize the system quickly because it took a century for advanced countries to do so. But the system was established smoothly. For the 2009 academic year, 4,476 students were selected via the system, but for the 2013 academic year, 43,138 students were selected with it. It was stabilized by winning fairness and trust.
The system also brought about remarkable changes in education. In the past, applicants were selected mechanically based on their grades. One single exam decided a student’s future, and its score was the absolute standard for college admissions. The current college admission officer system, however, is quite different. It selects students based on not only their academic abilities but also aptitude, potential and other talents. It also sees if the applicants are the best candidates for the universities’ philosophy and their areas of studies. Therefore, the system evaluates the students’ entire experiences during the school year.
After the system was introduced, more diverse students have been admitted to universities. For example, students from remote rural towns, who never received private tutoring, are increasingly admitted to colleges, not to mention students who overcome family hardships, poverty or physical disabilities. The admission officer system also allows an increasing number of students - who have invested a lot of time and energy in the subjects of their interest without resorting to private education - to join universities. Those who were selected through the system are also reported to adjust smoothly in their college life.
The high school education system has also become increasingly normalized since the introduction of the admission system. Students now tend to attend other academic classes, not just major ones - thanks to their schools’ “qualitative” approach to their academic performances. Students are actively participating in extracurricular activities, and teachers are also asking universities to provide their students with various job experience programs.
Despite such strengths, doubts still linger on the admission officer system’s impartiality and objectiveness. But an applicant has to go through multiple stages in the process, and several officers provide an evaluation to ensure fairness and reliability.
Furthermore, specifications that can possibly trigger private education such as overseas volunteer activities, winning awards in international Olympiads and standardized language tests are not considered in the evaluation to ensure that applicants who are devoted to their high school lives can enter universities.
Education is about planning for the next century. It is undeniable that the college admission officer system has brought about some positive changes to the country’s obsession with grades. Of course, it has its shortcomings, but they need to be modified to achieve an eventual goal of normalizing public education and selecting the talented students who will create our future - rather than scrapping or downsizing it.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
*The author is an admission officer of Dankook University.
by Jo Dong-heon