"Please stop discrimination based on academic background!"
Recently, as the national petition demanding enactment of the law got agreement of 100,000 people, they have raised their voice requiring to stop discrimination related to gender, academic background, and sexual orientation. It is affecting on the rate of the review about the Anti-Discrimination Law (차별금지법) that was proposed last year.
However, people have argued about the pros and cons of discrimination based on academic background of the Anti-Discrimination Law standards. Especially, university students and young job applicants have been debating intensively about this law. More people need to think about the law because it is directly related to the forms of employment, the change of job market, and the social perception of academic background.
What is Anti-Discrimination Law
The Anti-Discrimination Law means a legislation that gets certain people not to be discriminated against in employment and education, without reasonable reasons, on the ground of gender, race, level of education, and others. The council tried three times to enact this law since 2007. However, it failed to enact it with the ending of a session due to arguments for and against. Although the law received the attention of the National Assembly again, as the petition demanding to legislate the Anti-Discrimination Law got many consents. Nevertheless, there has been arguments for and against the law since the Ministry of Education showed an opinion to exclude the academic background.
Two conflicting opinions about academic background
The Ministry of Education offered an opinion to eliminate the standard of discrimination on the ground of the academic background. They said that the background can be evaluated as an element of “reasonable” discrimination in that academic achievement can vary with individual choices and efforts, not the “innate” element such as nationality or gender. The Environment and Labor Committee also said that if the law forbids to utilize what school they are from in recruiting process in the reality that it has been used extensively, the problem can come up that excessively restricts corporate autonomy about human resources. CUF interviewed with a job applicant (25) to hear about the Anti-Discrimination law. The applicant said that this law could cause reverse discrimination for people who effort hard to get higher academic background.
The legislator Jang Hye-yeong, who proposed the Anti-Discrimination Law in June last year, said, “Individual circumstances and environments are more essential than their efforts.” She also said that although the Ministry of Education has duty to have to improve influence of their environments in academic background, suggesting the opinion such as academic background is the lack of effort should be criticized. Hong Min-jung who is a representative of Noworryschool(사교육걱정없는세상), a civic group, also said, “It has become difficult to distinguish academic background whether it is individual efforts or support of their parents.”
The meaning of what the Anti-Discrimination Law standards imply
The Anti-Discrimination Law standards of other countries show putting what discriminative elements of each country are serious on the list including common standards. Compared to other countries, the educational background and forms of employment are the standards that belong only to Korea. The fact that the two standards were included and proposed in the law means that discrimination is very serious in terms of academic background and employment pattern.
People who do not have a high level of education are likely to be exposed to unfairness about the gap of financial support of the government. According to an analysis of the financial program of government for all domestic four-year universities from 2007 to 2018, 17.9% of the total expenses were intensively supported in top three universities. Kwak Young-shin, a researcher of the Graduate School of Journalism at Semyung University, said that the distribution of the financial support and uniform valuation method based on the advantageous criteria for the highly ranked universities can become an unfairness of curriculum for the students who do not have a high level of education.
An example that excludes academic background
Korea has prominently emerged the problem related to the academic background. For resolving this problem, the present government has made public offices progress blind recruitment since 2017, the process of removing all identification details from resumes and applications. The preference survey related to blind recruitment above shows most jobseekers regard the way as positive because of the fair talent selection and the decrease of an excessive burden about qualification.
On the other hand, according to the Korea Institute of Public Finance (KIPF), significant change has not been in the ratio of new employees who graduated from prestigious universities after implementing the method. Rather the turnover rate of new employees has increased because highly educated employees are arranged in just simple tasks. An anonymous recruitment manager of a public institution said, “Due to the blind recruitment, public institutions implementing the blind recruitment tend to select applicants who just react quickly than selecting the talented because we have scant information of them.” This fact raises questions about the opinions that discrimination about academic background is “complete discrimination”.
The views of CUK students
CUF conducted a survey to listen to opinions of CUK students about the academic discrimination. An anonymous student of CUK said, “Academic background is made by various factors, such as effort, luck or environment. I think the factors like luck or environment cannot be on the ground of discrimination. Therefore, I agree that academic background has to be included in standards of the Anti-Discrimination Law.” On the other hand, other student said that most people strive to achieve good academic background, and if this distinction is eliminated, their effort will vanish.
In the terms of blind recruitment, all the respondents reacted positively. One of them said, “If a company confirm a high academic background of an applicant, the expectation about it will be grown. Eventually, the difference according to academic background will occur if the company evaluates in this situation. However, if companies exclude academic background and evaluate applicants without prejudice against it, they can recruit the talented applicants who make efforts and develop themselves. Hence, I think that it can make companies beneficial and can compete fairly among applicants.”
The need for the government to make more efforts.
Experts are divided whether it is fair to exclude the academic background in the Anti-Discrimination Law or not. However, they all say that the government needs to make efforts to construct system for both people studying hard and disadvantaged students. Park So-young, a head of the Headquarter of Setting Education Straight Movement (교육바로세우기운동본부), said, “The government has to introduce a fair evaluation system for both students who did not have opportunities to study and students who studied hard to become the highly educated.”
This argument about discrimination based on academic background was caused by the difference between the viewpoints that regard academic background as result of effort and the view that regards it as harmful effect of academic elitism. Because the grounds of two are valid and reasonable, it has become heated. Even if the opinions can be split on the outcome of education, opportunities for education have to equal without distinction. Hence, the government needs to make more efforts to give chances to those who have no choice but to low the level of education due to lack of opportunities for education. The national assembly also needs to legislate the law after monitoring reaction and considering sufficiently because various opinions are mixed.