Where We Go – Women’s Universities in Korea
Where We Go – Women’s Universities in Korea
  • An Lee Jung un
  • 승인 2007.06.20 13:10
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A long time has passed since Sookmyung Women’s University (SMU) was founded in 1906.  SMU now greets its 101st anniversary.  SMU has changed continually since it was founded.  The 101st anniversary has many important meanings, the most important being that SMU only permits women to enter the school.  Korean society values women’s university in various ways.  Some people judge a women’s university very poorly.  Other people judge them in a positive light.  Which is true? 

There are 15 women’s universities in Korea.  The first women’s university was Ewha Haktang opening in the late 19th century.  This university was the first to give a chance of education to women in Korea.  It is important because Korean society concentrated on educating men in those days.  After Ewha Haktang was founded, many women’s universities were formed.  These universities multiplied with the growth of women’s status.  Now, there are 15 women’s universities, such as Ewha Womans University, Sungshin Women’s University, and of course Sookmyung Women’s University, just to name a few.  These universities produce many women of distinguished talent.  In what direction are these universities heading? 

Estimation of Women’s University

What do students who go to a women’s university think about their school?  The Sookmyung Times asked 50 Sookmyungians who are freshman and second graders about women’s university.  The first question is, "Did you want to enter a women’s university?"  38 students answered ‘No.’  However, it doesn’t mean they dislike women’s universities but planned to enter coeducation universities when they were high school students.  Park, 21, who checked ‘No’ said “I graduated from a girls’ high school so I wanted to enter a coeducation university and experience diverse things that I had never experienced.  However, I applied for SMU because of my scholastic aptitude test score.”  The second question is "Do you think women’s university badly influences your employment?"  19 students answered ‘YES,’ and another student answered that women’s university won’t badly influence their employment. 

The third question is "If you can enter a coeducation university, would you go to there?"  46 students answered ‘YES.’  The reason is that coeducation universities are viewed more highly in society than women’s universities.  Most students, however, stated that the reason is they that they want the atmosphere of a coeducation university.  Sookmyungians are satisfied with the administrative part of their university but feel that there is a lack of atmosphere of women’s university.  Kim,19, who checked ‘YES’ said “I heard from friend who enter a coeducation university.  She has entered into a strong relationship with some of her seniors but I haven’t.”  The forth question is, "Are you satisfied women’s university now?"  Then 43 students answered ‘YES.’

People’s recognition about women’s university is divided.  Some people insist women’s universities are needed for women to raise woman’s prosperity.  Other people insist women’s universities are not good.  Someone posted a question on the internet portal site NAVER (www.naver.com) the following question: “I’m thinking of entering a women’s university.  Is it alright?”  Then most people replied negatively.  They insist women’s universities are losing popularity.  They contend that students who enter women’s universities don’t experience as many diverse things students who attend Coeducation University.

According to 2006 Rankings Korean Universities conducted by the national daily, JoongAng Ilbo.  SMU ranked 19th among Korean universities.  However, actual university rankings vary according to deverse factors.  For example, education condition, reputation and entry of graduateds in public affairs.  so this ranking is not fixed.  SMU's ranking can rise or drop.

Characteristic of Women’s University

Women’s universities have special characteristics.  These characteristics are the women’s universities’ competitive power.  So when women’s universities improve these characteristics, they can be treated better by the public. 

Studying the Characteristics of Students

Women’s universities give beneficial surroundings to students.  Women’s safety and welfare is important to women’s universities and they give a value this problem.  So universities make an effort to raise the welfare of women in their school and give good surroundings that involve lesson and facilities to students.  Also universities can control and require a lot of students.  They don’t emphasize youthful culture.  These characteristics can help to create a studious atmosphere for students.  Students at women’s universities are more concerned about their subject grades.  In addition, women’s universities develop innovate education programs.  And they design these programs to fit women.  Therefore, students who enter women’s universities can learn special education program which was developed for them.

Students of women’s universities can get self-confidence during lesson hours.  Some scholars insist there are discrimination between man and woman in school.  For example, men occupy important position in university so women don’t get a chance to experience it.  Also professors choose a man by instinct when a man and woman raise their hand at the same time.  Women’s answers are as generally accepted as men’s.  These situations have been confirmed by many scholars.  Actually, David and Myra Sadkers, professors at the American University in Washington, DC, insist these discriminations start in preschool. 

They ascertain that boy students get more chances to pay attention from teachers through their thesis, "Advocates for Gender Equity."  What’s more, they can get more help from teacher than girl students.  American Association of University Women Education Foundation draws a conclusion that there are prejudices in coeducation universities and it influences woman students’ grades and self-realization.  Through these situations, women’s universities don’t have the problem of sexual discrimination and give a chance of equal education.  So students who go to women’s university don’t experience discrimination and gain more self-confidence which helps to develop their abilities.

Recognizing the Characteristics of Student

According to Astin's thesis, "Fore critical years : Effects of college on beliefs, attitudes, and knowledge."  Students who go to women’s universities feel satisfaction in their university life.  And they have more self-confidence and participate in extracurricular activities positively. 

The reason is women’s universities help students to give a chance a student council or club activity and give a sense of achievement.  In other words, women’s university students can get more experience as leaders than they can at a coeducation university and it raise social confidence of students.  For example, SMU set a goal ‘vision 2020’ in which 10percent of Korean leaders will be from SMU and they give special lectures and offer leadership training and group activities to students.  Students of women’s universities have a high understanding about the equality of sexes.  The reason that students of coeducation universities have a lower awareness of equality than those at women’s universities is that there tends to be fixed roles for each sex in a coeducation university. 

 For example, if someone should move heavy luggage, men should do it.  And if someone should do cooking or decorating, women undertake this work.

Lastly Cornelius Riordan, who is a researcher, insists that women’s universities are more effective than coeducation universities and he presents 10 points through his thesis, An Educational Advantage for Women: Women's college.

1. The diminished strength of youth culture values. 

2. A greater degree of order and control. 

3. The provision of more successful role models. 

4. A reduction of sex differences in curriculum opportunities. 

5. A reduction of sex bias in teacher-student interaction. 

6. A reduction of sex stereotypes in peer interaction. 

7. The provision of a treater number of leadership opportunities. 

8. A pro-academic parent/student choice. 

9. Possible provision of special programs for women. 

10. Accommodations to gender differences in learning.

Weakness of Women’s University

Although gap has decreased, there are more students who regret entering a women’s university than students who regret entering coeducation universities.  And women’s universities popularity continues to drop.  Also some research papers show there is a little difference in equality recognition between women’s universities and coeducation universities.  All these universities influence girl students’ progressive awareness.  It means women’s universities lose their role which women’s universities to raise progressive awareness of women. 

Evidence is insufficient to believe firmly that women’s universities’ education is better than coeducation universities.  Lastly, some people insist women’s universities discriminate against men.  They argue that in past times, women’s universities were needed for women who didn’t receive an education to give education right.  However, women have restored their rights.  There are few women who don’t receive an education.  So women’s universities are reserve discrimination toward men.

Road to Success

Women’s universities have many strengths and weaknesses.  Through these characteristic, women’s universities may know what they to do.  They should develop their strength and improve their weakness.  SMU is also developing and practicing ways in which to help SMU to grow.

First, women’s universities should change education course to be practical to women.  Also, they raise women’s leadership, progressive sprit and ability which women need to be a professional.  In the past, women’s universities emphasize soft and traditional girlish attributes.  However, society doesn't want these women now days.  Women’s universities should raise positive women.  Second, recently students value getting a job and have a desire to advance in society so women’s universities increase department that help students to get a profession.  A connection between companies and universities is also a good way to help students.  Third, women’s universities accelerate education which is involved a women’s universities’ strength.  If they don’t teach special programs that differ from coeducation universities, women’s universities will lose their reason for being.  Forth, women’s universities should continually research women’s universities’ characteristics and their social position. 

The research on women’s universities is very insufficient.  Specially, there is little research on the comparison between women’s universities and coeducation universities.  When women’s universities research themselves continually, they can advance more and more.  Lastly, women’s universities are not satisfied with conquest of their weakness but they will achieve universities’ management innovation aggressively.

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