Diversity in education truly lackingSeoul National University postponed its plan to accept humanities-focused high school students into its prestigious medical colleges, which drew opposition from conventional and public educators. The elite school previously announced that it would accept applicants from the humanities division in its medical, dental and veterinary schools from 2015, as part of efforts to foster innovative talent.
But easing admission to certain departments would help promote convergent education. In Korean high schools, students must choose either a humanities or science track, which acts as a precursor to their college major, and their courses and exams are planned around those divisions.
Since SNU’s announcement, the Korean Council for University Education, a government-run supervisory board for higher education, advised the school to put off the plan over concerns that it would create unnecessary confusion in the education sector. The Ministry of Education also opposed the idea, saying SNU would not only draw students from top science schools but also from elite foreign-language and international schools.
SNU ultimately gave in to mounting pressure and postponed the plan.
Creative technology, robotics, digital media, medical administration and architecture are some of the emerging fields of the future. But these areas are not limited to a certain category. They must cover a diverse range of studies. An expert in one field cannot give credible analysis on complicated social developments or offer ideas for new growth and progress. But such open-minded talent cannot come from nothing. They must be nurtured from an early stage, and fundamental changes in our education system must be made. Yet education authorities have strongly opposed sweeping changes in our outdated framework. It is why Korean teenagers are still forced to choose whether they are either a humanities or science person in high school and must stick to those boundaries in college, pursuing a career accordingly.
Few countries impose such a rigid division in academia. President Park Geun-hye considered breaking those barriers in high schools but decided to hand over that task to the next administration. Unified school education would cause immense confusion. Textbooks and the college admission system must be changed. Teachers would also need to be reshuffled. The government should draw up a clear outline on unifying education to accelerate the process. Universities should also be given more liberty in choosing which majors are open to students, regardless of their academic backgrounds.