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Sunday, January 25, 2004

(Social categories/structure) SNU admittance and social strata

The Center for Social Sciences at Seoul National University has published a study on the social background of the admitted students, based on material since 1970 (article in Chosun Ilbo). The results telling that students from the metropolitan Seoul and especially Kangnam in Seoul have an easier entry to SNU is no surprise.

What the study shows that the government attempts at creating a more equal environment for university admittance have not been successful; on the contrary, changes in admittance procedures have produced more unequality. Entrance exam questions have been made easy to alleviate the influence of private tutoring, but it has only made it easier for those with resources for private tutoring. And when a new entrance system has been introduced, the admittance has been more equal for the first year, but after that those with more resources have figured out a way to take the advantage of the new system.

After the school standardization begun in 1974 (meaning children are allotted to schools according to the residence area), the entry to top universities (illyudae) has actually become more difficult for those who cannot afford private tutoring.

And: in 2003, the students with a non-working mother (chônôp chubu) had a 4 times higher possibility of entry than those with a working mother (ch'wiôp chubu). Those with a university graduate father had 2.5 higher admittance rate than those with a high-school graduate father.

The survey can be downloaded as a pdf file from Chosun: the full text and summary. (Couldn't find it at the Institute hom0epage.)

It'd be really interesting to see these figures compared internationally; I have always had the impression (but never the energy to dig up the figures) that the university entry might in fact be more equal in the ROK than for example Finland, where the university education is basically free, and student subsidies are internationally compared quite generous, in the name of social equality. But this ends up being an income transfer from the whole taxpaying population to those with good income and high education, since people with those backgrounds are much more likely to enter universities. (And not entering a university is seen a natural choice in much wider circles than let's say South Korea.)

(UPDATE) Hankyoreh also has an article of the study; looking at it quickly, it seems to convey the same info as Chosun, but not unexpectedly, it cannot buy the conclusion that the school standardization (p'yôngjunhwa) has contributed to the growing gap between the haves and have-nots. It has the representative from the other teachers' union (Chôn'guk kyojigwon nodongchohap, in English?) say that it's wrong (chalmot) to directly link the standardization carried out 30 years ago to rich kids' easier entry to SNU, since the explosion in the private tutoring expenses has happened only during the last 10 years. And Chosun makes its stand clear in its editorial: Wake up from the standardization cult (P'yôngjunhwa saibi chonggyoesô kkaeônara).

Cannot say whether the abolishment of the standardization system would improve the Korean public education - don't know what could. What I know is that TV crews from the public channels will not come here to make reports of Finnish education in this regard - in the municipally administered school system, people are free to choose their school, and it doesn't contribute to equality either.

(UPDATE 2) Hankyoreh has an editorial on the subject; it acknowleges that the standardization has not been without problems and that the admittance rate of the low income students has been constantly falling; standardization has not achieved more equality in the way it has supposed to. But as expected, the leader accuses the research of choosing only facts that fit its agenda. Furthermore Hankyoreh says that the research has only showed that unless private tutoring is reformed (corrected, parojapta), all the finely formulated educational policies will be useless and the education system will only function as a way to solidify classes and transmit riches between generations.

(It's a bit difficult to think that only "facts fitting to the research agenda" had been chosen, as far as I know the leader of the research team, anthro professor Kim Kwang-ok, but I understand that the results are not pleasing for Hankyoreh.)

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