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  • Writer : KU TODAY
  • Hits : 299
  • Date : 2018-08-31

KU The Future



In the 21st century, traditional ideas are being disrupted and challenged, and institutions of higher education are being asked to take the lead in making these changes. Where should they direct their efforts? Korea University’s answer is in the classroom. Many universities have been focusing on improving their research performance and enhancing their graduate programs, while paying relatively little attention to their undergraduate programs. Korea University believes that the future of a university depends on “teaching and learning.” Immediately after he was appointed president of Korea University in 2015, Jaeho Yeom implemented “the three-no’s policy” of no grading on a curve, no exam supervisors, and no roll calls, to demonstrate his determination to break away from outmoded educational conventions. He believes that these the principles that the three no's overturn don’t fit the needs of the universities of the future. The three-no’s policy is not mandatory, but an option that each professor or lecturer can choose to implement or not. However, it has become clear over the last three years that this policy is effective in motivating both professors and students. This is the reason why you should consider the implications of the three-no’s policy, not only in quantitative but also in qualitative terms.

Why we don’t—or shouldn’t—call the attendance roll

The no roll call policy is familiar to some professors who don’t call the attendance roll because it is a waste of class time, according to Young-Shin Sung, a professor in the Department of Psychology. He hasn’t been calling attendance rolls for a long period of time.

“On the first day of class, I always announce that I won't call the roll, because college education is not compulsory. I believe the most important element of higher education is self-direction. You choose which class you want to sign up for and you take responsibility for the grade you get. My classes' attendance rates may be lower than other classes where the roll is called. But one thing is clear: everyone sitting in my classroom comes to class because they have voluntarily decided to do so. And therefore they’re more engaged and enthusiastic to learn.”

Suppose you go to a restaurant and there is only one dish available. Even if you like it, you will enjoy your meal more if you have more options and you voluntarily decide to eat that dish. Self-direction is the most effective form of motivation for learning. With this in mind, the most important objective of the no roll call policy is to increase the attendance rate through the teacher offering better quality lectures rather than doing so by forcing students to show up to class.

Inculcating values through unsupervised exams

Korea University’s unsupervised exam system does not entail exams being taken without someone monitoring students; rather it involves educators devising test questions that require some thinking on the part of students in formulating responses which cannot be found in a textbook or on the Internet. It is the professors’ task to devise unexpected questions, questions with several possible answers, and questions that cannot be answered through rote memorization or which lend themselves to cheating. As a result, making the unsupervised exam system work depends more on professors than students.

Knowledge obtained through rote learning is no longer productive in the 21st century. Human beings cannot match artificial intelligence (AI) in terms of the amount of knowledge the latter can assimilate. The power of human intelligence lies in people's ability to think based on their knowledge and to share ideas and opinions with one another. In fact, educational experts say that helping students develop this ability should be the primary goal of higher education.

In Korea University, any student who takes unsupervised exams must sign the Honor Code that reads: I will take this examination according to my conscience. KU students view signing the Honor Code as an act that shows their commitment to honesty and their pride in the university’s culture of mutual trust. 

The Honor Code helps KU students learn the value of the authentic pursuit of truth, and of the demonstration of self-esteem and pride.


Grading on an absolute scale to facilitate the development of both professors and students

To enhance the classroom authority of professors, Korea University changed its grading system from relative to absolute. Professor Sung, who was implementing the Three-No’s Policy long before it was put in place by the university, said that grading on an absolute scale is possible only when there is mutual trust between students (and their parents) and professors, as well as student confidence in the education they are being provided with in educational institutions.

“Relative grading requires questions with universally correct answers to be posed. On a test that is made up of questions with no one single answer, everyone can get an A. This grade inflation can be prevented only through strong mutual trust between professors and students. Students are used to learning by rote, and many of them think that absolute grading is not fair. Actually, I often have students who contact me to complain about their grades, so absolute grading is never easy for professors. Because it involves questions with no single, irrefutable answer, professors must carefully examine each student’s answer in order to grade fairly and objectively. Such questions require deep thinking both to answer and grade. In this sense, the absolute grading system creates intellectual growth opportunities for both students and professors.”

For students, absolute grading means getting good grades by studying hard, not by denying other students good grades, as is the case with relative grading. Classmates are no longer enemies. Grading on an absolute scale teaches them that cooperation creates more value than competition.

Self-motivation is the starting point of the future of education

Along with the Three-No’s Policy, Korea University has implemented the Flexible Term System. This system allows students to design a curriculum and academic calendar to meet their own academic and professional goals. For example, they can take lectures for 8 weeks or 4 weeks rather than the regular 16 weeks, if for example they would like to intern overseas, participate in global projects or write a research paper on a particular topic they are interested in, which is not currently a common experience for undergraduates.

Even though the introduction of a handful of new policies does not guarantee successful educational reform, having confidence in students, and helping them motivate themselves and realize the greater value of cooperation over competition are the first steps on the path toward the education of the future.


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