Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Not A Surprise: Professors 'Routinely Pass Substandard Work'

My energy is inching back up, so let's hope it lasts.

Since I've been picking up on these education stories in Korea, here is another. A professor at Sungkyungwan University where Kim Ock-rang earned a doctoral degree after essentially lying about her educational background.

In March 2004 Kim earned a doctoral degree in performing arts from Sungkyunkwan University, the first in the country to earn such a degree.
She was one of the professors recently discovered to be a fraud.

It's honestly not much of a surprise. I'm proud to say that my experience in grad school here has been challenging and had me working hard. I was surprised how some of my classmates were shocked when professors held firm to their demands for high quality work. I think part of it is bound up in the culture where there is so much focus on status, respect and pride that the bigger virtue of education and knowledge, which are also huge attributes of Korean culture, is lost in the modern drive get rich and be a capitalist.

One big objection I've had working here on the college/university level is how an "I'm sorry" is supposed to earn a student a good or passing grade when they've not come to class and essentially bomb an exam. My reply is a terse "I'm sorry too" when handing back their test with a nice fail scribbled on it. What the administration does after I hand out these grades, I don't know, but I'm not having it.

That's probably one big reason there is such a push here for people to send their kids abroad for their education and the push to get advanced degrees in foreign countries.

Professors 'Routinely Pass Substandard Work'
Some 60-70 percent of advanced degree holders in Korea are unqualified, and professors are to blame for approving substandard work, Sungkyunkwan University art professor Jung Jin-soo said Monday. In a phone interview with the Chosun Ilbo on Monday, Jung said, "I have approved many poorly written dissertations.” He said a scandal surrounding fake degrees from the U.S. was only the tip of the iceberg. “Master's and doctoral theses passed through the legitimate process are also substandard,” he said. “Graduate schools are bent on recruiting students, so they are lenient in approving theses."

"If I were to take issue with the matter by myself, I would have had to quit my chair long ago,” Jung said. “Most college professors are accomplices in this lenient screening. Seventy percent of papers written by professors themselves only to add to their resume are rubbish. They are assessed by colleagues who don't examine one another’s work thoroughly."

Jung teaches at Sungkyunkwan, where Kim Ock-rang, the head of the Dongsoong Art Center and Dankook University professor at the center of the latest fake degree scandal, received her master's and doctorate. Jung graduated from Sogang University in British and American Language and Literature and got his doctorate at the University of Illinois.

Jung’s remarks are likely to put the cat among the pigeons. Already one professor of drama called them “outrageous”, saying many professors examine theses with scholarly integrity.

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  1. Glad to see your energy is on the upswing...

    but I must take issue with your use of the word capitalist....

    why not say businessperson, or entrepreneur??

    because as far as I can tell, Koreans, and the rest of humanity, seems more than happy to gain physical sustenance/advancement any which way they can, within a union heirarchy, bureaucracy, government ministry....

    The only difference is that capitalists actually make a surplus which can improve everyone's lives.

    Maybe they neglected to inform you of that at Berkely..... ;)

  2. I attended a Japanese national university as a 'research student' for one year, taking literature and art classes with the freshmen even though I was 28 years old at the time. It was hellishly difficult for me, for obvious reasons, but one thing I could not help but notice was the amount of cheating going on during examinations, with students openly looking at others' papers. I asked one of my friends about this and she assured me that the number of students who cheated was close to 90%. The only department where cheating was not allowed was the economics department, where the students knew that if they cheated, they got kicked out.

    I was amazed by the fact that cheating was tolerated, and asked why it was so. The answer? The tests were so hard that none of the students could have passed them unless they cheated. When I asked why they couldn't just make the tests easier, no one could give me a satisfying answer.

    I never accepted 'Sorry' as an answer from my students either. If the work hasn't been done, 'sorry' just doesn't cut it.

  3. Hey Mary,

    Well, cheating runs rampant here too but you can't be obvious about it in most cases. However, people have been creative doing it.

    It's just that when a student gets caught "I'm sorry" is often accepted and I know that "I'm sorry" is a lame answer. If there are no consequences it will happen again, so "fail."

  4. Oh, anonymous you've pissed me off so much that I've decided to not accept anonymous comments anymore.

    Why? Because I find that people will say a huge amount of inane crap under the anonymous banner.

    With that said, I love it when uninformed people take issue with a term which is honestly neither here nor there.

    However, I chose "capitalist" for a specific reason, so that's why I used it.

    I'm not anti-globalization or even anti-capitalist, but how I see capitalism developing here, it's a capitalism which only brings benefits to the businessperson or entrepreneur.

    Statistically speaking, from what I know, Korean businesses and the Korean elite don't give back the way American ones do. We've got our big stars, millionaires and billionaires with trusts, chartitable foundations, and their own non-profits. Also, the social welfare system in South Korea in essentially non-existent because the public doesn't see the need for it when it's expected that your family supports you when the bottom falls out from under you. However, like me, some people don't have immediate family.

    So what about all of those homeless people at Seoul Station? What about orphans? What about the mentally ill? The mentally ill wander the streets and they're treated with disdain (no different from the disdain I see in the West, but at least we have some shelters.) It's not a huge problem here by any stretch, but they're there.

    So before you lecture me on some bullshit, know of what you speak which also includes my alma mater. I've clearly identified a few times and you could have easily figured it out from the info in the sidebar.

    To answer back, you'll probably need to create a Blogger login, sorry. However, I might change my mind on that.


Hey there! Thanks for visiting my blog. It's my first blog, and I'm glad folks are still stopping by even though I'm no longer living in South Korea. Feel free to comment. If you want a personal answer, leave your email, and I won't publish the comment. Nasty comments and spam links will not be tolerated.