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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