January 23, 2008
|Staff members are attending cram schools to work on their English and sweating out student evaluations under new rules at the country’s most prestigious university.
A staff position at Seoul National University has usually been looked upon with envy by workers elsewhere because of its secure tenure compared with other workplaces and the school’s reputation.
The envy is subsiding a bit. In July, the school announced that all university staff members (not professors) born later than 1971 must improve their language skills in the global market.
They are required to hand in an English proficiency test score higher than 800 on the TEPS (Test of English Proficiency, developed by the university) by 2010.
The university said its staff members are supposed to be fluent in English because the school plans to recruit more foreign students and professors to keep pace with globalization.
“These days I focus on studying English during my spare time. I am taking English classes on weekends,” said a 34-year-old staffer who declined to be named. “Having to submit this test score makes me so stressed. I guess I might get disadvantaged if I don’t get the minimum score.”
In addition to requiring proof of English proficiency, Seoul National University introduced an intensive evaluation program last year. The goal is to give students better service.
Under the system, students can monitor university employees in different ways. Some students, working undercover, visit each department office and observe whether the employees address students courteously or not. Students can also monitor the behavior of the staff on the phone. They can call the offices and check how staff respond. Students send e-mails and note how quickly the staff members reply. The staff are then graded by the students.
Based on student monitoring, SNU recently published a graded list in a booklet, including each department’s standing, then shared the results with students and faculty.
“We think staff have to try to move forward with the professors and students,” said Kim Hwa-jin, secretary-general of SNU. “We need to introduce programs to keep our No.1 status and survive in highly competitive circumstances.”
The university currently has a staff of about 1,000, 737 of them full-timers and 220 contract workers, according to Seoul National University.
By Kang In-sik JoongAng Ilbo [firstname.lastname@example.org]