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A student’s right to study

Mar 12,2019
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NAM YOON-SEO
The author is an educational news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

For decades now, colleges and universities have faced a crisis during class registration season. The difference is that students lined up overnight in front of the school registration offices in the 1990s, while these days they click madly on their computers in the hopes of securing the classes they want.

The problem is that this happens for both introductory major courses and courses required for graduation. If a student fails to register for certain classes on time, they will move on to the next levels without even taking basic classes. Students who fail to take all required courses for graduation often make class exchanges or beg professors.

Various methods are used to resolve the crisis. Yonsei University introduced a registration mileage system in 2015. Every student is given 72 points and bets on the courses, up to 36 points per course. Students who bet more points for a given course are registered first. Students may put “36 points” on a certain course they must take, or they can distribute their points through different classes. Students have criticized the system, saying the school has turned class registration into gambling. Other schools give priority to students based on their grades in the previous semesters or place students in a lottery.

A fundamental solution is to guarantee students’ right to choose as much as possible. Schools need to survey demands in advance and offer a variety of classes. Yet many schools stick to the supplier-oriented perspective of offering classes based on professors’ availability.

This year, the class registration crisis has reached its worst. Korea University’s student body announced a survey report that 74 major classes and 161 elective classes were reduced compared to last year. As more students failed to register for the classes of their choice, school message boards filled up with posts looking for open spots.

With the law protecting lecturers to start being enforced in August, universities began cutting the number of instructors and lecturers. As the number of lecturers decreases, fewer classes are offered and students are seeing more restrictions. It could get even more serious in the second semester, when the law on lecturers goes into effect.

The lecturers act will treat instructors as professors and require wages over the breaks. Colleges and universities claim they are suffering financial burden after freezing tuition for 10 years. Lecturers’ groups demand expanded financial subsidies by the government. Yet the Ministry of Education has allocated 2.88 billion won ($2.54 million) for the lecturers, about one eighth of the 230 billion won that colleges and universities demand. To protect students’ right to study, the government and universities must act promptly.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 11, Page 29