Upsetting the Established Order
Upsetting the Established Order
  • Peter Chang (CE 10)
  • 승인 2014.11.05 01:29
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It is no secret that POSTECH wants to become the world’s best university in the fields of science and engineering. To make that leap from being the best in the country to the best in the world, the former president announced the grandiose global campus initiative, hoping that the change would be enough to bring in more students from abroad.
But all that the global campus initiative did was just add English to everything. As an old Korean saying goes, “adding stripes doesn’t turn a pumpkin into a watermelon.” The English phrases, pamphlets, and slogans seemed to cater to foreign students but in reality, they just served to boost students’ school pride. In fact, many foreigners that I have worked with complained of Korean English (English with Korean grammatical structure), partially-translated websites and services that were unavailable in English.
The global campus initiative shows that there are many things that are part of a language. Language is not just a collection of words. There is culture embedded in it that gets lost in translation. So to truly become a global campus, the first and the most important step is to realize the cultural differences between American universities and Korean universities.
One key difference is that there seems to be an established order in Korean universities that makes students conform and inhibits idiosyncrasies. The students are required to attend department-wide events which may entail drinking liquor or other activities that do not have much to do with education. Not participating in these activities may result in a limited human network that could be very harmful to school life. So even if a student may not be particularly fond of the activities, he or she must go lest they be ostracized from the community. Many things in Korean universities are run by the aforementioned communities and there is little room for individuals. Therefore, the human network and other resources are made for you by the communities of which you are a part and the resources are not for your own choosing.
This starkly differs from American universities. When I studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I was free to make friends that shared common interests and was not forced to spend meaningless time bonding with people that were of the same major and/or age. It helped to not have any mandatory department-held activities. In fact, there were no such activities, required or otherwise. When meeting a new person, I did not even bother to ask their major because it was a non-issue. I cared more about what they did in their free time, what food they craved at midnight, and what music they listened to than what classes they took, what year they were born in, or what city they were from.
The difference is evident in the way students view universities as well. Korean college students view college as a continuation of high school. Thus, they believe that they are locked in on this path of higher education and must do whatever they can to survive in this field. The downside to this is that there are millions of others who are thinking the same thing. Korean college enrollment rate is 71%, which, coupled with the education system that likes to line people up based on their scores on tests, makes for very high unemployment rate amongst graduates. Since most students have discarded other dreams in their zealous pursuit of their diplomas, many are left hopeless after graduation.
The same is not true for American students. The enrollment rate is significantly lower at 42%. Many of my high school friends went on to pursue other dreams after graduation and did not attend college. Those that did go to college went for various reasons. For these people, college was a stepping point for something greater. They needed higher education to pursue other dreams and did not merely attend because everyone around them did or because there is a social stigma attached to not going to college.
The conclusion is this: becoming a global campus means creating an environment for students to freely roam and exercise their creative minds without having to worry about what others or the society thinks of them. It is a daunting challenge of course, but it is necessary in order for the school to improve. This means boldly breaking away from tradition and the established order. Until the school makes these changes, it may just be adding stripes to the pumpkins.