You’re about to Graduate from POSTECH; How Fluently Can You Speak English?
You’re about to Graduate from POSTECH; How Fluently Can You Speak English?
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  • 승인 2011.11.02 22:44
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The vast majority of POSTECH international students are understandably grateful to the former president Sunggi Baik since he initiated the ‘Bilingual Campus’plan in 2010, announcing that “The Bilingual Campus Declaration will commence with this matriculation ceremony, and English, in addition to Korean, will be adopted as an official language of POSTECH.” In fact, it was a promising start for POSTECH in light of its long-term strategy to become a real world-class university in 2020. However, what has been achieved so far has not satisfied foreign students, nor has it met their needs in the school. The bilingual campus, towards the globalization of POSTECH as a leading research-oriented university, will not be successfully applied without close collaboration of all faculty members, students, and staff with the POSTECH’s administration team. If we consider POSTECH as a system, its components are all Postechian, including faculty members, students, and staff. The shortcomings of all components of this system in the bilingual campus are discussed shortly in this article.

First, the faculty members, as a powerful part of the school, play a very important role in this strategy through their teaching and research methods. The question here is how much have they engaged in this strategy. According to some present evidence, there are still professors who teach in Korean when there is no international student. Furthermore, even with foreign students present, Korean is used frequently for elaboration, leaving the foreigners in the dark. There are a great number of professors, though, who are adamant to give their lectures in English, both for courses and discussions in the class are held in English.

Second, how much have POSTECH students committed to adapt themselves to the strategy? “I strongly believe that using English as another official language on campus is the first step POSTECH needs to take in order to develop into a real world-class university. And you, the students, are the leaders of this big change” added President Sunggi Baik in the matriculation ceremony of 2010. This statement is very true, considering international students spend the majority of their time with Korean students in the school. I do remember that when I was talking with a Korean graduate student about the importance of teaching lectures in English, he told me, “I do not need to learn lectures in English because when I get job, I will have to talk in Korean.” That illustrates some Korean students’ mindsets and also how some Korean students do not yet realize that there is an urgent need for people around the world to have adequate knowledge of English.

Third, despite the fact that there are some almost-fluent English-speaking staff members in administrative positions at POSTECH, there are still staff members in department offices who cannot speak English. They even send their emails in Korean to all students regardless of the fact that there are some international students in their departments. To give another example, how is it possible to have staff in the English Language Center who is not able to speak English?!

What is more, addressing the POSTECH administration, we as international students completely understand their concerns to get more and more foreigners in light of the globalization strategy and increasing the ranking of the school in the world. POSTECH recently won plaudits by QS and THE for world universities rankings in 2011-2012, and POSTECH’s climb up the ranking has been helped partly by its strategy: international outlook. On the other hand, it appears that they must offer proper services to admitted international students in terms of education, health, and campus life. Of course, we do not expect, for example, for a cashier in the student store market to be able to speak English, but we really expect that we can communicate very easily with all faculty members, students, and staffs.

All in all, POSTECH’s journey to becoming a bilingual campus will not be possible in a short time. What is clear, however, is that the only way to make it possible in an efficient way is a full commitment by all Postechians. This includes all faculty members, students, and staffs to become aligned with the POSTECH administration’s strategy to become a real world-class university in 2020. For the moment, it seems that this development project is posed as one of the huge challenges for the new president Yongmin Kim. The former president has done much to transform POSTECH for the better. It is more stable and richer in terms of a bilingual campus than it was when he took over. Yet, POSTECH suffers from fundamental shortcomings. As a comprehensive solution, POSTECH would gain a foothold in this development project by looking at it from a system perspective in which its components are faculty members, students, and staff. That is what POSTECH needs right now. Systems thinking would be by far the best guarantee of POSTECH’s bilingual campus. Consequently, this perspective would give POSTECH a place alongside the best non-English schools in the world, and POSTECH will be identified strongly because of its excellence in this regard.

Ali Masoudi
(IME, M.S candidate)