Everyone is not college material
What do Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have in common? They’re all college dropouts. In fact, many successful people never even attended college.
But Korea is famous for one of the highest college entrance rates in the world at 82.8 percent. Most high school students go to university ― usually of their parents’ choice ― just to get high-paying jobs. Then most graduates work at a company, for the government or in a position unrelated to their majors. How much is your degree related to the occupation you are doing now?
We as a nation have to accept a fact that could change not only our society but also the future of our youth: not everyone college material. Instead of young people being thoughtless machines trying to pass entrance exams to get so-called, good jobs in society, they should find their own true callings and devote themselves to them.
Let’s look at the college entrance rates of developed countries. In the United States it is 35 percent; Japan, 47 percent; France, 41 percent; and Germany, 35 percent. On average, one out of two high-school students go to college in developed countries compared to nine out of 10 in Korea. Many scholars are saying that these unusually high statistics reflect the passion Koreans have for education.
We Koreans managed to reestablish a progressive, outstanding nation from the debris of the 1950-53 Korean War. Had it not been for that passion, Koreans couldn’t have escaped from poverty, but it doesn’t justify the abnormally high university admissions rate.
Tuition in Korea is so expensive ― about 40 million won for 4 years ― that many students or parents borrow money to pay for school. The scholarship system of Korean universities is organized so that only a few students can enjoy these benefits.
So many young people start their professional lives with tremendous debt. And after they graduate, they have a hard time finding a job. They accept any position they can find, whether or not it is related to their majors.
Not all college degrees are useless. In some professions, such as doctors, lawyers or scientists, college certifications are essential to achieve the purpose of those specialized jobs. However, it’s more productive to give young people time to ponder their future, make up their own mind and then support them by raising the windows higher for their choices.
To find their true calling, young people should spend their early 20s traveling around the world, learning and studying special subjects, and taking internships. Through these kinds of experiences, young people could appreciate what kind of job they’ll have and decide whether to go to college or not. They will be able to recognize whether pursuing a college education is vital for their short- and long-term goals.
Second, universities should cater to a variety of undergraduates beyond just traditional students who attend college directly after high school. For instance, there should be special courses or programs for more mature students. People with experience in the real world tend to concentrate on studying subjects related to their experience, which may help prevent them from spending college time uselessly.
Last but not least, governments and companies should increase the odds for non-graduates to land a decent job. The public and private sector should offer special support for scholarships, fellowships and internships for young people.
The National Assembly should pass legislation to encourage businesses and agencies to hire non-graduates and set aside a portion of jobs for them. The employers should also help finance college tuition should those young people choose to pursue higher education. Also, government subsidies should be offered to entice companies to hire and send young people to college.
If everyone could afford to go to college on their own, that would be ideal. In reality, not all people have that much money. Most importantly, college life just for the sake of certification doesn’t guarantee a young person’s livelihood and successful future.
Look into the eyes of your children. What are they saying to you? Do you know what they really want to do? Listen to your children’s heart, not your mind.
The writer is a police officer in Seoul. A graduate of the Korea National Police University, he just wants his young daughter to find her true calling in life. His email address is email@example.com.