A couple of recent events concerning education policies have
brought to mind the mentality of the average Korean and the government's
"consolidation policies." The core of this mentality is revealed in the Roh
administration's new college entrance system. This system, implemented from
2008, evaluates high school students based more on grades in the three years of
high school and less on nationwide standardized tests. The purpose of this is to
reduce a growing education gap, putting a stop to wealthy students "buying"
their way into the best colleges through costly tutors and other methods, while
children of non-affluent families are kept on the social margins. The hope is to
give high school students "more normal" high school lives.
the question is, does this "egalitarian policy" actually free high school
students from the burdens of a society built on the need to graduate from an
"elite" university? Does it really guarantee students the freedom to lead high
school lives more focused on developing personal talents and interests?
Regardless of how evenly the burden of university entrance is placed over three
years, as long as Koreans stick to the elitist mindset, the bottom line for
university entrants will be to "make it into a top university." Increasing the
burden to a length of three years will actually make studying a daily routine
for students and print elitism more clearly on their minds.
Obviously, the Ministry of Education & Human Resources Development thinks
that this is presently the best way of eliminating elitism. But the truth is
that as long as their policy only shifts the burden of elitism and does not
totally remove it, it only presents an illusion of progress and does not really
address the real issue at hand.
Instead of shifting high school
students' burdens more evenly over three years, it would be more effective to
start modifications in the mindsets of Koreans. The government could change
employee recruitment laws so that institutions must place more importance on
individual talent than school name. They could give more financial and legal
support (more effectively than before) to newly established firms in various new
sectors, and attract foreign human resources to help change atmospheres so that
emphasis is on productivity and effective business solutions, not
The recent row between the government and Seoul
National University (SNU) accentuated the Ministry's goal to shift power away
from elitist connections by limiting SNU's admission methods to those used by
other universities. Yet one would wonder if this would be the answer to
eliminating elitism. Why not go to the core and seek societal change from the
inside out, instead of nicking away at the corners?