Last March, Yonsei University has cancelled its policy to select new college students according to the unit of division. This was followed by Seoul National University in a while. The policy will start for students entering in 2011 at SNU, which means that it has to do with second-grade students at high school in Korea. This change from SNU will gradually influence most universities in Korea. Konkuk University (KU) announced that they will take the same policy in selecting students of liberal arts and science from 2010. If the results are satisfactory, the new program will spread into all colleges. Dongguk University(DU) also decided to join this academic trend from 2010.
What is the difference between department and division?
The department system is one of the educational systems in selecting new students. The universities offer all services to students according to the separate policies made by each department. By doing this, they expect to train students making them finally specialists in their own fields.
The division system is supposed to provide the same services from wider perspectives by grouping similar fields within the same division. Students in their first and second years take courses common to the studies belonging to the same division. In their third and fourth years, however, their majors are more segmented in detail. They concentrate on what is called specific majors.
When did the division system start?
In 1972, President Park Chung-hee introduced the division system in Korea. At first, the government chose one university to experiment on the division system by helping it financially. The division system continued to the era of President Chun Doo-hwan. In 1985, the division system was abolished completely. The department system had replaced it, producing many problems. So, in 1994, President Kim Young-sam re-established the division policy. He announced the law of higher education in November, 1997. From then on, the division system had been popular in Korean higher education institutions. But early this year, the laws that control the division system have been abolished completely.
What is good and bad in division system?
At DU, there are many divisions such as the division of IT, Bio, PhilosophyㆍEthics, and so on. One student of the division of IT said that "The division system is not good for us. To exemplify what I mean, I studied one subject as a freshman in order to enter the Information and Communication Engineering division. But, after that, I changed my mind. I wanted to enter the Computer science and Engineering division. However, classes were so difficult to understand because I was not prepared to learn these subjects. I thought I would study more to get a college diploma."
On the other hand, a student of the division of PhilosophyㆍEthics said that "Our school had adopted the division system, so I selected my division when I applied to the school. During the first grade, I could take various subjects. It helped me to choose my present major." Some students prefer the division to the department, and vice versa.
Why many students have dissatisfaction for the division system?
A researcher of Korea Higher Education Research Institute, Yeon Duk-won, said the division system is not suitable for Korean universities. It is eligible for US graduate schools. In the US, students study over all subjects and they go to graduate school to study their majors more in-depth. But, in Korea, students enter universities without getting ready to study any specific fields. It is too short a time for students to decide major subjects. Though they begin to study their major in the division, it is not enough. Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Po-hang University of Science and Technology, however exceptionally, are suitable to practice the division policy.
The government is partly to blame for these confusions. It did not have any pre-arranged plans for the possible problems for the division system. It should have invented any educational systems to solve the problems. They must have prepared many things expected to happen in universities. For example, they could make a make check including course syllabus, qualities of professors and students, grades, etc.
One can not say which system is better between the division and the department. However, the important thing is that which policy would be suitable for Korean educational environment. The government should be more attentive in making and applying educational policies. One single error in policy making will lead to gigantic confusion to citizens as well as waste of money.
News Desk Editor Choi Jung-youn
Choi Jung-youn firstname.lastname@example.org
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