|▲The GSC and the representatives of each College are holding a press conference regarding the "Lifelong Education College Plan" at Paljeongdo.|
/Photograph by Kim Min-ji
From the end of July, there has been a big issue in Ewha Womans University, when Ewha was selected as a target of “Lifelong Education College Plan.” A lot of students of Ewha opposed to their school joining the plan with some professors supporting their opinion. They questioned the validity of the plan, suspecting that the university was trying to become a means of selling degrees. Regarding the issue, the students engaged in a sit-down while fighting for the president’s resignation. Finally, as opposition against founding the Lifelong Education College persisted, Ewha Womans University decided to call off the plan.
Dongguk University is also enforcing the same plan as Ewha Womans University, and many Donggukians do not know how the Lifelong Education College would be managed. In addition, many of them think the plan has some worrisome points in terms of its results although some of them agree with the school authority’s point of view. Regarding this, students’ movements have emerged.
The “Lifelong Education College Plan,” providing opportunities of education
“Lifelong Education College Plan” is a plan designed by the Ministry of Education and the National Institute for Lifelong Education. It began this year to provide opportunities of higher education to people who started to work right after graduating from high school. Selected universities are going to create new majors depending on each university’s unique academic traits. All together, nine universities ,excepting Ewha Womans University, including Dongguk University, Myungji University, and Inha University have been chosen to join the project. Each university receives approximately three billion won as support.
On October 21st, 2015, public hearing of the “Lifelong Education College Plan” was held. On January 14th, business information session took place. The first selection result was reported on May 11th, and the second was announced on July 15th. Then, each university has taken time to prepare for the plan and the newly established colleges are scheduled to start operating in next year’s March.
Possible problems of the “Lifelong Education College Plan”
However, despite the ambitious intention that the “Lifelong Education College Plan” proclaimed, it has been facing constant criticisms. The criticisms began from the notion that the universities were trying to commercialize and sell degrees led by the Ministry of Education. A number of public opinions from SNS and the Internet articulate that the plan cannot be the fundamental solution to the existing unemployment crisis. They added that creating a specialized college for working high school graduates is an act of acknowledgement. The acknowledgement to the idea that having a university diploma makes one more advantage in employment in the current competitive job market.
More importantly, questions remain on whether the selected universities will be able to fully prepare within the remaining six months. Not only universities that were selected in the second term but also universities that were selected in the first term do not have detailed curricula. Even more, not a single member of the teaching staff has been confirmed.
However, the Office of Planning in Dongguk University stated that the length of preparing period does not guarantee the quality of the results, and that six months are enough to establish a proper college. They have also stated that it is professors, who know the best about founding a new college, not students.
On the other hand, Professor Han Man-soo, who is the professor of the Dongguk’s Division of Literature and Creative Writing and also the chairperson of the Faculty as Sociation of Dongguk University, stated, “There is a Korean proverb saying education requires a 100 years of planning, but it seems to me that all it took for Dongguk to plan and prepare was only two months before they were additionally selected by the Ministry.” He added, “I think it is irrational to found a new college when anything including faculties, curricula, and classrooms are not settled. Moreover, unlike other screening systems, the ‘Lifelong Education College Plan’ needs to get through more investigation because it is going to be founded independently.”
|▲The members of the General Student Council, student council of the Global Trade Major and the Office of Planning are having a debate during the Discussion Table.|
/Photography from the Office of Public Relations
Dongguk university applied for and selected as part of the plan
On July 15th 2016, Dongguk University was announced, by the Ministry of Education, as one of the four additionally selected universities that would be supported in the establishment of the “Lifelong Education College Plan.” However, many of the students were unaware, and questioned the validity of the plan on SNSs such as the “Bamboo Forest” as they witnessed the sit-down in Ewha Womans Univeristy.
Regarding the issues, the GSC of Dongguk managed to set up a closed discussion with the Office of Planning on August 5th. During the discussion, the general outline of the new college was revealed which became the first hint for students about Dongguk University’s Lifelong Education College. According to the Office of Planning, freshmen will be selected through the examination of documents such as student records and personal statements, with the admission starting from 2017. Two new majors will be made: Fusion Science of Public Regulation and Care Welfare.
No specific curricula or teaching staff have been decided, but new professors will be employed along with the completion of the curricula during the second semester and academic affairs will start to operate in March 2017. In addition, the Global Trade Major will be transferred to the Lifelong Education College without any changes to the affiliation of the current freshmen, sophomores, juniors and the freshmen of 2017 admission.
Survey reveals discontent from the students for the lack of communication
According to the survey conducted by the Post, Dongguk University clearly did not share the information about the promotion of the “Lifelong Education College Plan” with the students. Out of 182 students who answered the survey, 170 students felt that they were not informed properly, and only two students thought they had been properly informed.
Regarding the question of how they were informed at first, 75 students said “by social networking services,” 63 students answered “through the news,” and 56 students attained the information from their acquaintances. This shows why 136 students had a negative opinion on the “Lifelong College Education Plan,” as 94 students selected “lack of communication from the school” as the reason for their disapproval.
One student who wished to stay anonymous explained, “The reason why students have to be properly involved in every act of the university is in the same sense to why the government has to inform the public. As the owners of the school, we have every right to know and to be timely informed. However, as revealed by the behavior of the school, the Office of Planning clearly did not do so in this case.”
The stalemate continues as both sides refuse to give up
The sit-down in Dongguk University has been continued and the doors of the Main Hall have been closed since August 10th. For 15 days during the holiday, tents had been pitched, the security camera had been sealed and the doors had been covered with different written messages from the students, criticizing the school’s actions. An Dre, the chairperson of the GSC, clarified many times during the interviews that the sit-down will not be stopped and the students will not leave from the scene until the “Lifelong Education College Plan” is withdrawn.
It is clear at this point that, which is also expressed by many students in the survey; the students are not only fighting for the withdrawal itself. Since the words “Miscommunication” and “Disharmony” have been representing the relation between the students and the staff of Dongguk University, they are fighting not to be ignored by the school and to bring the school back to those they believe it belongs: to the students. As Chairperson An mentioned, “We will continue this sit-down to bring back and to bloom democratic academic affairs in Dongguk University.”
Although students are showing their firm and strong opinions to opposite the “Lifelong Education College Plan” by doing such movements, the school insists that the plan should be continued and showed full determinations on proceeding the plan. Jin Cha-beom, a manager of the Office of Planning, said, “Although we know that the students will continue their sit-down for a long period, we will keep on promoting the ‘Lifelong Education College Plan’ because we truly believe that the plan will be beneficial for students of the new college. Also, by establishing the Lifelong Education College, Dongguk University would be able to fulfill the Buddhist spirit; the spread of equality.”
The paradigm of the plan must change to reach suitable agreements
As the fight between the students and the school has been deteriorated not only in Dongguk University but also in Ewha Womans University, different ideas were proposed to make appropriate adjustments to the “Lifelong Education College Plan.”
Professor Kwon Dea-bong of Korea University’s Department of Education stated that while the plan itself is appropriate, there are areas that need to be amended. “The whole intention of ‘Lifelong Education College Plan’ in itself is very suitable to the current society. Workers should be able to go to schools to learn while working and go to work while learning. However, such unilateral actions to implement major changes to universities bring inevitable conflicts as seen.”
He said that in order to make the amendment, the paradigm of the whole plan has to be changed from being government initiated to being university initiated. He added, “Universities should have the right to build up their own Lifelong Education Colleges and at the same time, receive support from the government. That way the universities can take full advantage of their collective intelligence and establish a Lifelong Education College specialized for their own students.”
Neglected Opinions of Global Trade Major
The students in the Global Trade Major confessed that they were both puzzled and disappointed when they first encountered the fact that their major was going to be transferred. Moreover, it became known as a fact that the school did not inform the students about plan timely. The Internet homepage of the Global Trade Major does not show any sign of notifications about the plan to this date.
The student council of the Global Trade Major had to file an official document to the Office of Planning to manage to set up a meeting on May 27th in order for them to get the answers to their questions. They were about the general guidelines of the plan, and the authenticity of the transfer of their major. When they found out that their major was indeed in plan to be transferred to a new college, they clarified their objection to the plan, not only once but three times. “The students of Global Trade Major had a second meeting on June 1st where they made clear that they oppose the plan and filed in another official document to the Office of Planning to deliver the same intention,” was the major’s official report to the press.
However, the official document never received a reply. It took two months for the students to get their next feedback on the issue from the school, when they participated in a discussion with the help of the GSC on August 5th. In the discussion, the school’s response to the students’ complaint about the lack of communication was “We had our two meetings on May 27th and June 1st where we explained about the plan and answered questions, which show that we did try to communicate with the students.” Also the school regarded that they can fulfill the plan because, in their opinions, they had accepted the students’ complaints.
During the Discussion Table which took place on August 16th, Choe Soo-ho, the head of the Global Trade Major’s emergency committee revealed the reasons to his major’s rejection of the plan. “We stand against the creation of the Lifelong Education College because, as students of the Global Trade Major, we know how poorly our major has been running over the past three years.” The chairperson also remarked that students of Global Trade Major have been neglected from proper education. With no full-time professor in their major, most of their lectures have been covered by lecturers. Also, the students in the class of 14’ were never given chances to take the basic liberal arts classes such as the EAS (English for Academic Success).
He stated, “We hoped and expected some improvements, only to find out that our department has been transferred. How can the transfer improve any of this, when there is not a single decision made on the curricula and the professors of the new college?”
About this issue, the school insists that by receiving support from the government, the concerned poor learning conditions of the Global Trade Major are going to be improved. Moreover, they replied that if the Global Trade Major transfers into the same college with two new majors, the schedules of the working students who usually take lectures in the nighttimes and weekends can be taken care of more efficiently which ultimately can improve the students of Global Trade Major's educational environment.
Meanwhile, on August 17th the GSC gave an official document to the school, demanding the invalidation of the transfer of the Global Trade Major unless the school receives more than 50 percent of written consent from the students of the major. The demand was firmly and quickly rejected by the Office of Planning as they expressed their stance on the same day.
Yang In-hyeok , Kim Min-ji email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
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