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Revision of Academic Requirement: Too Hasty?
[ Issue 135 Page 10 ] Monday, November 09, 2015, 04:16:07 Jeong Yeon Kim Staff Reporter jkim95@kaist.ac.kr

Six more credits to graduate may sound trivial. After all, most KAIST students graduate with more than 136 credits. Nevertheless, the revision of academic requirement that the school is expecting to implement in the upcoming semester is not only abrupt but also ineffective. If implemented, the students would have to take 136 credits to graduate, about 63 of them from major courses. The required credits for major courses will be increased by 18 credits because students will be obliged to double major, pick a minor, or take advanced major. A new concept in this policy, the advanced major is intended to deepen a student's understanding about his or her major.

This proposed revision is an abrupt one. Although this policy would be one of the most important changes for the academic requirement, the students heard about this policy in late November. According to the timeline presented by the school to implement this revision, presentation of this plan and getting approval of the board of the directors is within a month. The students have right to, and should, know about important changes in the school's policy. The hastiness in making the decision would impair students to contemplate and voice their opinions. Furthermore, the revision abates the ease in changing major, which is one of the most appealing academic features of KAIST. The students spend their freshmen year without declaring major and changing major is relatively easy compared to other schools. This allows students to freely think about what the students want to study and actually pursue it. Under the new revision, however, this may not always be the case. Changing major after one semester of taking major courses would still be a feasible option. However, if a student was to change major after that, he or she faces a problem of taking major credits anew. If he or she already took 20 credits in one major, it would be extremely hard to put that aside and start anew. Furthermore, if that student actually wants to start all over, the GPA becomes problematic. Generally, major courses are more demanding than basic electives or humanities courses. Thus, it is often harder to receive a good grade in major courses. If a student chooses to change major after taking 20 credits on major, he or she is ultimately taking about 75 major credits. He or she is more likely to have a lower GPA after changing major. The risk of having a lower GPA may hamper his or her desire to change major.

Finally, the school’s claim that the graduates are ill-prepared in terms of scientific knowledge is befuddling. The school claims that the graduates are underprepared than other school’s graduates who took 10 or 15 more credits than our graduates. Nevertheless, this claim is not very persuasive. Even if the KAIST students are required to take less major credits, they still have to take non-major classes that heavily pertain to science and math.

The selection of humanities courses is also not as wide as other universities that have other schools such as business school or liberal arts school.

Nevertheless, the school’s eagerness to better prepare the graduates before going into the society is understandable. Graduates having major related knowledge directly affect the range in which the graduates can go into and further the school’s reputation. Arming the students with knowledge and skill is the ultimate goal of the school and this revision may be one step towards reaching that goal. Nevertheless, the revision should be made with ample time and after listening to students’ opinions.

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