An artificial divisionLarge companies overwhelmingly preferred college graduates with degrees in science and engineering over those with humanities backgrounds in last year’s hiring. Studies in science, math and engineering are now being extensively applied in financial, telecommunications and retail fields as well. Employment mismatches occur because universities produce more graduates in the humanities and social science departments even though the corporate sector demands science and engineering majors.
Experts are advising that the government restructure universities to better accommodate today’s needs in the corporate and industrial sector. The government should conduct an extensive study of the demand from the corporate sector and the supply from universities to balance out the job market.
The manufacturing sector remains the country’s main engine to drive the economy and it has a big demand for new talent from the science and engineering field for future growth.
But companies should not place too much emphasis on degrees and majors in hiring lest they send the message that humanities graduates are uncompetitive, which could lead to discrimination in job opportunities. It won’t do much help if the government artificially increases quotas for students in the science and engineering departments and shrinks the spots available in humanities classrooms.
The country doesn’t merely need students with science and engineering backgrounds. It will always need well-rounded young people with insight and knowledge of humanities and an understanding of basic science and technology. One company recently recruited software and program developers from job seekers with humanities degrees.
The fundamental change should come from breaking down the barrier in humanities and math/science divisions in high schools. Upon entering high school, students are forced to choose between two different tracks and restrict themselves within the boundaries of one division when applying to college. Knowledge of science and technology have become rudimentary in modern life and yet our secondary schools maintain an outdated dichotomous education system.
The Ministry of Education has begun developing a new education program that combines humanities and sciences. Middle schools and high schools must include computer programming classes in their curriculum. The education system also should become more broad and liberal to help students choose various walks of life instead of a single narrow and competitive path to college.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 15, Page 34