Admissions Officer System revamps college entrance
By Na Jeong-ju
The Admissions Officer System, initiated in 2008, is one of the Lee Myung-bak administration’s bold measures to reshape the test-oriented college entrance process.
Most Korean universities previously picked students based on scores from the annual College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT), prompting students to rely heavily on private tutoring to get good CSAT scores to gain admission to their preferred schools.
However, under the new system, admission officers evaluate applicants based on their potential and extra-curricular activities as well as recommendations from principals and teachers as well as academic scores. This selection process based on various criteria helps students adapt to their universities.
In its initial stages, the system experienced some ups and downs, but it has taken firm root. Universities are currently increasing the number of students admitted by admission officers, with the government increasing subsidies to those adopting the system. The number of students recruited by admission officers was 254 in 2008, but it will rise to some 41,000 this year. This represents about 10.8 percent of the total college admission quota.
In 2008, only 10 universities chose students through the system, but it is now being used by over 120 universities. Thus, the amount of government subsidies has steadily increased. The subsidy for the system was 15.7 billion won in 2008, but increased to 35 billion in 2010, 35.1 billion in 2011 and will exceed 39 billion won this year.
Talent over test scores
The admission officer system is to help students who have learned through self-directed activities from elementary and middle school years, and who know how to solve problems for themselves, adjust to university life more easily and become dynamic citizens.
Under the CSAT-based admission system, many university students experienced difficulties discovering their true talents or preparing for the job market while in school. Even worse, many of them were left jobless after graduation.
Despite the fact that the system promotes students’ aptitudes and individualities, there are also various concerns about the system. Because the government subsidizes the system in universities, there is a need to perform regular inspections to monitor and ensure the proper use of funds and its implementation. The problem, however, is that such monitoring could be misunderstood as state regulation over private schools.
However, the government believes it is acting as a catalyst to revive public education and could be a barometer of university autonomy. It is true that the system is costly but when students are selected on the basis of abilities and talents, the future benefit to the universities outweighs the cost of the selection process.
As it is still in its early stage, the education ministry sometimes has to offer guidelines for universities. Once the system is fully adopted by universities, they will be able to select the students that they prefer based on their own criteria.
What’s interesting is that the academic achievements of the students admitted through the system tends to improve as grade levels increase compared to that of students selected through the regular CSAT-based admission system. Schools can select students who are interested and talented in specific fields rather than simply relying on test scores, and the system is suitable for that, according to the ministry.
Many students apply for universities or departments that do not suit them because they lack just one or two points in the CSAT. This has often led to their departure even before the end of the first semester in order to study one more year and to reapply to a university they prefer. The admission officer system addresses such problems. The students selected through the system are generally more satisfied with their academic life, and this leads to a lower dropout rate.