[Editorial] School Needs to Take it Slow and Steady
[Editorial] School Needs to Take it Slow and Steady
  • Ewha Voice
  • 승인 2007.04.02 00:00
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Do you remember that no universities in Korea were included in the list of the top 100 global universities on last August’s Newsweek? Tokyo University in Japan ranked 16th, which was the highest among Asian universities, and four of other schools in Japan were included on the list. School rank was evaluated objectively based on the number of highly-cited researchers in various academic fields, the number of articles published in the journals Nature and Science, and the percentage of international faculty and international students.

The fact that no Korean universities were included in the list was both a big disappointment and a shock to Korean society because, nowadays, being ranked as a global university are signs that the university itself and its home country have achieved international competitiveness, power, and influence. The implication, then, is that neither Korean nor any of its schools have achieved these goals.

So now, about six months after this horrible shock, it seems like almost all of the Korean universities are working themselves to death to make themselves top global universities. University presidents have announced their bold plans, one after another, to make their schools internationally prestigious, and universities are taking their first steps to become global universities by increasing their number of classes taught in English and increasing their foreign faculty.

Starting with this year’s freshmen, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology has decided on conducting all freshmen classes in English. Korea University is planning to increase the percentage of classes taught in English to 60 percent and Hanyang University is planning to increase them to 20 percent by the year 2010. Ewha plans to hire about 50 more foreign professors by 2009 to assure that all departments have more than one native speaking foreign professor and, from 2007, new Ewha students will be required to take four classes in English to graduate.

It is good to see the universities making such efforts to increase English classes and foreign faculty, because these efforts are very important to attracting foreign students and preventing outstanding Korean students from going overseas. Course offerings in English help students get used to English and some Ewha students say that they will be able to adjust better to classes when they go overseas as exchange students. And, basically, people cannot survive without speaking English in a global society, so developing students’ English skills is an inevitable step.

However, there is a feeling that some universities, including Ewha, are taking these actions too fast and indiscreetly, without considering the students’ welfare. This semester, Ewha employed 11 foreign professors, and it is said that there are about more than 300 classes taught in English being offered this semester, which is an increase of 50 percent over last year. But this drastic change has resulted in displeasure for many students.

Most of all, students feel that classes taught in English do not seem to be properly prepared, but have increased only to show off the school’s global ambitions. An incident on the first day of one class taught in English illustrates this point. One foreign professor who was newly hired this semester came to class saying that he had come to Korea only two days ago, and that he really didn’t have any idea what to teach, instead asking the students what they wanted to learn.

Other students say that classes taught in English are a huge burden. Quite a few students avoid classes taught in English because they think that they are not fluent enough to take these courses or to compete for grades with classmates from the International Studies division who can read, talk, and think like native English speakers.

Still, others criticize the fact that the school does not seem to be considering the characteristics of various majors in its plans. Fields like natural science, business, and engineering, which are based on Western studies, are more effective when taught in English. However, studies like history, literature, and philosophy can perfectly be conveyed to students without the power of English.

Being a top global university is a good, even admirable goal. But the process of becoming one is more important. Because haste makes waste, schools should achieve their bold goals through slow and steady planning to improve their quality. Moreover, both schools and students should put more effort on solving essential problems like improving students’ English skills. Without students who are able to use English freely, the school cannot become a true global university no matter how many English classes or native English speaking teachers it has.

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