Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Police Verifying Academic Credentials

Here come the po-po!

Since this connects to my post on Koreans faking their degrees, let me take this one on. Now that it's international news that Koreans routinely forge their degrees and get away with it, the police have been called in to investigate the authenticity of the degrees of teachers working at cram schools in the Gangnam district of Seoul.

For those who aren't familiar with the culture. A cram school is where parents will send their kids who are preparing for college entrance exams. They tend to bring in foreigners from prestigious schools for students who are getting ready to write the SAT. There is an equivalent track for students choosing to stay in Korea because, honestly, it really does matter which school you go to. In fact, these cram schools are so effective (or, thought to be effective) that Koreans from overseas send their kids to Seoul to attend these rather than the prep courses back home in the States.

I taught at one of the big three universities named in the article, but I was at the satellite campus. The difference in morale between students in Seoul versus students at my campus was clear. The students at the Seoul campus were optimistic and pretty happy. The students at my campus were morose and sullen because the status of the satellite campus was not strong. I thought it was odd at both the Seoul campus and my campus had the same majors. I always thought the easiest way to resolve it would be to shift some departments completely to the satellite campus and others to the main campus. So, for example, if you wanted to be an English major, you'd go to campus A, but if you wanted to major in music you'd have to go to campus B.

Another Korean university has it set up that way and guess what? There is at least one department, but I think more, at their satellite campus that people fight to get into, thus the rep of their satellite campus is pretty much equal to (or might even exceed) its Seoul campus. This is easy, but it probably won't happen at my former employer because the old guard will not want to cooperate with such a change.

Anyway, what that means is, from the Korean perspective, there are only a few Korean universities worth going to and the system isn't working to expand the number of spots. This attitude also applies to foreign universities too.

So here is the article. We'll see what difference it will make.

Honestly, the corruption flows so much deeper than this and I don't disagree that people with faked credentials should be uncerimoniously tossed out on their lying butts.

However, why not put the onus on the owners to check? They're the ones profitting massively off of these schools. Also, why not take steps educate the public?

I see this as slapping a band-aid on a broken leg. Also, since a Canadian was recently tossed in jail for 6 months for faking his way into a teaching job, I wonder what punishment his Korean equivalents will get?

Police Checks Authenticity of Degrees of Instructors

Police began investigations over authenticity of degrees of 3,000 instructors at cram schools in the Gangnam district of Seoul on Monday.

The move comes amid the recent scandal of Shin Jeong-ah, a professor of arts at Dongguk University who forged bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees.

Since the investigation will be conducted on all the instructors in Gangnam, Seocho and Songpa districts, it is expected to send shockwaves across the nation.

According to Songpa Police Monday, it acquired records on degrees of 3,000 former and current instructors at cram schools and institutes in Gangnam District Office of Education and Songpa District Office of Education from June 30 to July 12 and has been conducting investigations ever since.

``We received a report in mid-June that there are many teachers in Gangnam area who have forged school degrees to get employed as instructors, duping that they are from prestigious universities,'' said Ko Byung-chon, an official at Songpa Police Station. ``Based on the data we have acquired, we are currently checking if they really graduated from the recorded schools or not.''

Yang Ki-hoon, an official at Gangnam District Office of Education, said that police officially demanded cooperation with their investigation over all the instructors registered in Gangnam District Office of Education and copied all the data regarding teachers' educational backgrounds.

The police will primarily focus on investigating instructors who claim to have graduated from prestigious Korean universities like Seoul National University, Yonsei University and Korea University.

Authorities will punish teachers who have forged degrees.

When instructors are employed at institutes or cram schools, they must submit their final school record to employers. While institutes keep a copy of the records, the education district office in the corresponding area keeps the original copy. However, district offices of education are not required to check authenticity of degrees. According to the law, one can gain employment as an instructor at private institutes as long as he or she has a minimum of a two-year college degree.

Police and experts point out that there are more than 100 Web sites that issue forged school degrees, leading to rampant forgeries.

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  1. The JoongAng daily has a leading item on this.

    It made me laugh with the lines :

    Those who completed academic degrees in foreign universities are required to report to the Korea Research Foundation, but this is not enforced. This institution has a limited number of staff so it is technically impossible to look into all the academic papers reported.

    It's not technically impossible, it's financially impossible, because no one thinks it's worth doing.

    There is nothing technically difficult about it. You get a bunch of low grade staff to send letters to the universities and ask them to confirm the details of the student. Is that difficult?

  2. Yep, that's a laughable and lame excuse because I know that back home one of the first things that is done is degree verification.

    It's the same excuse-making that we heard more often than not here in Korea.

    "Oh, it's too difficult." "Oh, my English isn't good." You know what? Your English is good enough to bug the hell out of and micro-manage me. Why can't you use it on the Internet, pick up the damn phone and find out how to verify a degree?

    It's b.s.

    Nothing more, nothing less. I mean you can't really say "we let it happen because it was the easiest thing to do."

  3. Expat Jane
    Could not agree more in fact here in the States I forgot what temp agency it is but they are doing a thorough background check on you including your degrees.

    The thing that was most funny to me was the CEO of Radio Shack lying about his resume saying he attended this university and in actuality didnt even step foot on the campus yet in still he managed to get the CEO position. I am like Radio Shack you didnt verify? yet in still you're quick to run the average worker through the mud and back with criminal background checks and everything else?
    I am like I know getting a degree is important but like Brian May of Queen(he will get his PHD in AstroPhysics)said he wasnt interested in an Honorary degree he wanted the real thing.

  4. Ha! Well that is impressive. Go, go, go Mr. May.

    That Radio Shack story is hilarious and proof that back home steps are skipped too. At least back home it seems to be rare. Here it's a common occurence. The excuse must be for them because I don't know any foreigner who has sympathy for them on this issue because we know that these things can be checked fairly easily.


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