The Ministry of Education (MOE) announced that a section of the higher education act reform was passed during the cabinet meeting on May 2. To prepare for the fourth industrial revolution, the reform will allow universities to flexibly operate their curriculums and semesters. “Since the amendment of the higher education act will greatly expand the autonomy of universities, we expect that each university will be able to contribute to human resource development and higher education development,” said a MOE official. “The change will enable students to select majors based on their interest, aptitude, and demand of the developing industry.” Currently, each university can operate up to four semesters, two normal semesters and two additional summer and winter semesters. Under the implementation of the multi semester education system, however, each university will be able to operate five semesters in the near future. Also, schools can introduce a flexible system which will enable them to run different semesters for each department, major, grade and degree. A career consulting semester for freshmen, field practice semesters, exchange semesters, and job training semesters are some of the examples the MOE presented. With the authorization to operate multiple semesters, shortening each semester will also be possible. Schools can shorten the number of school days within the boundary of more than 15 hours per credit. This allows universities to open lectures on weekends or other days that students and professors prefer. The process of selecting one’s major is also up for changes. In the future, students will no longer be obliged to major in one’s department but can choose to major between a major from their own department, convergence majors, and student designed majors. Establishing a convergence major is to become easier. With the reform of the higher education act, universities do not have to merge existing majors to create a convergence major, but can operate new majors when necessary. Convergence majors can be established not only within domestic universities, but also between overseas universities. Although students could only receive joint degrees when studying a convergence major between two domestic universities, they can now receive dual degrees as well. “Currently we do not have any plans on implementing the Higher Education Act reform, ” said Han Hyun-suk, the deputy head of Ewha’s Office of University Planning and Coordination. Although universities have not yet expressed their plans regarding the implementation of these changes, while some students have responded positively. “I think it gives more choices to students,” said Yoo Ji-yin, a sophomore at Seoul National University. “In the case of the multiple semester education system, providing a curriculum fit for each grade will enable more practical study and focus.” Even though her view towards possible changes in the university system is positive, Yoo suggests that the school should be open to students’ opinion when implementing such changes. “Since the system directly affects students, their opinion should be valued the most,” Yoo said. “Wanting our school to implement these changes, however, is just my personal opinion and there may be others who disagree. Any drastic change in the university system should be made after thorough communication with students.” In preparation for the fourth industrial revolution, there are more changes to come. Giving credits according to learning experience prior to entering university and preparing long-distance learning course guidelines are few of the many reforms the MOE is planning.
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