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York Centre for Asian Research Update                         Issue 15, Friday, May 27, 2005


YCAR Associate Director attends Annual Conference on Global Peace and Policy Research

Professor Judith Nagata is participating in the annual international conference on Global Peace and Policy Research in Madrid, Spain from May 25-28. The event is co-sponsored by the TODA Institute for Peace Research and the Confederacion Iberoamericana de Fundaciones. 

Left: Dr. Nagata (middle front) with her team of researchers in Malaysia.

In this conference, Dr. Nagata is a member of a team of Southeast Asian scholars focusing on Political Islam and Authoritarian Democracy in Southeast Asia. She is presenting a paper on Authoritarian and Democratic Trends in Islamic Movements in Malaysia and Indonesia: Engaging with the State. The event is a sequel to the TODA Conference held in Budapest, Hungary in 2004 focusing on the theme of Islam and its potential for peace. A preparatory workshop for the present conference was held in Penang, Malaysia in March 2005. The panel plans to produce a book for publication in the near future.


Schulich International MBA Program Director participates in UN-ESCAP Business Forum

Dr. Lorna Wright, Schulich International MBA Program Director and YCAR Executive Committee Member, recently attended the UN-ESCAP Asia Pacific Business Forum on "Changes, Challenges and Opportunities for Asia and the Pacific" in Bangkok, Thailand from May 13-15. There were two tracks to the conference - (1) Asia Pacific Business Environment and  (2) Corporate Social Responsibility. 

The following recommendations were put forward from the conference by Dr. Kim Hak-Su, Under Secretary general of the UN and Executive Secretary of UN-ESCAP.


Asian Institute and Asian Business and Management Program co-sponsor talk by Ambassador Pak Gil Yon on Korea

The Asian Institute at the University of Toronto and the Asian Business and Management Program at York University are co-sponsoring a talk on recent developments in the Korean Peninsula by Ambassador Pak Gil Yon, Mission to the United Nations of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK or more commonly known as North Korea). Ambassador Pak (AP photo on left) is a graduate of the University of International Relations and has served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the DPRK since 1964, with postings in Myanmar, Singapore, and twice at the United Nations. He is a Permanent Representative of the DPRK and, since April 2002, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Canada. Accompanying Ambassador Pak on his visit to Toronto is Mr. Sing Song Chol, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of the DPRK to the United Nations. Mr. Sin holds a doctorate from King II Sung University in Pyongyang and served in the Department of International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, prior to his posting to the United Nations. 

The talk will be held on Thursday, June 2 at 4:30 pm at the David and Vivian Campbell Conference Faculty, Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto, 1 Devonshire Place. Please register by e-mail to ai.events@utoronto.ca or call (416) 946-8996.  


Towards an Asian Economic Community: Vision of a New Asia - edited by Nagesh Kumar

The 1990s have witnessed a strong trend in different parts of the world especially the developed countries to form regional trading blocks, such as EU and NAFTA. The formation of these trade blocs has led to substantial diversion of trade and investment away from the rest of the world economy affecting the growth process in other regions that are not part of these blocs. The Asian countries on the other hand have faithfully pursued multilateralism in their trade and investment policy except for few subregional attempts such as the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) or the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA). However, there is now a growing recognition in Asia of the importance of regional economic integration for generating growth impulses from within, especially in the wake of the East Asian crisis. This book is useful to Asian policy makers and scholars looking for a vision in making the 21st century an Asian century. (Published 2004, 981-230-280-8, 203 pp., US$29,90, S$49.90).

To order, contact The Managing Editor, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 30 Heng Mui Keng Terrace, Pasir Panjang Rd., Singapore 119614, email: pubsunit@iseas.edu.sg. To view more books and journals published by ISEAS, visit their online bookstore at http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg/


Southeast Asia and South Asia Fellowships Up for Competition 

The East-West Center (EWC) Washington and the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) in Singapore are now accepting applications from young scholars who wish to undertake research and writing on internal and international conflicts in Southeast Asia and South Asia.  Applicants must be completing or have completed their Ph.D. degrees in the last seven years, be a national of a Southeast Asian/South Asian country, and presently be residing in the region.

For more information visit their websites at www.eastwestcenterwashington.org & www.iseas.edu.sg or email Washington@eastwestcenter.org


Indonesia starts to clear the path to new foreign investment - Asia Pacific Bulletin

Indonesia announced last week that it is willing to accept a negotiated settlement of its long-running dispute with gold producer Newmont Mining and that it is even closer to resolving two similarly worrying disputes with foreign investors Exxon and Cemex. 

US-Indonesia Business Council Chairman, Bob Haines of ExxonMobil (right), chatted with H.E. Aburizal Bakrie (center), Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs, during the US-Indonesia Business Council meeting in Indonesia in December 2004. (Source: US-ASEAN Business Council)

Aburizal Bakrie, the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, made the announcement on the heels of improved financial data indicating the economy is growing faster than expected, with both exports and investment recovering. Resolution of the disputes with major foreign companies would be just the latest in a series of developments that will go a long way toward refurbishing Indonesia's attractions to foreign investors. More >>


Universities want more autonomy - by Jin Hyun-joo, The Korea Herald , 2005-05-24

Backed by the main opposition Grand National Party, top universities are rebelling more openly than before over Education Ministry interference in admission policies and are heading for a showdown with the government. Chung Un-chan, president of the No 1 rated Seoul National University (left photo) which is heavily subsidised by the government, said the ministry should "reconsider one or two regulations on university admission." Former heads of SNU hardly ever publicly called for abolition of guidelines even though they said universities should be given more autonomy.

The GNP added weight to Chung`s bold move by preparing a bill for next month`s parliamentary session that would scrap the entrance guidelines imposed by the government and give universities full independence. The government imposes three admission rules - dubbed the "Three No`s" policy - on both national and private universities. Under the rules, which are far from universal, universities are banned from (1) weighting the competitiveness of high schools; (2) administering a form of tests known as "bongosa;" and (3) taking contributions for admissions.

The aim of the regulations is to provide equal education opportunities for poorer students in this nation where parents spend an extraordinary and disproportionately high amount on higher education as they strive to ensure social success for their children. When universities in the past considered the academic status of high schools as part of their admission guidelines, students whose parents could afford to live in more expensive areas where education facilities were generally of a higher standard had a better chance of getting into the top universities. Parents also had to spend huge sums of money on preparing their children prepare for bongosa, a super-difficult university test on major subjects such as mathematics, English and Korean.

Under current rules, the ministry only allows universities to give essay tests to supplement other admission standards such as school records and the College Scholastic Aptitude Test. The long-running disputes between the government and universities on admission rules are difficult to resolve because both sides refuse to budge from their positions. Universities want to get out from under the shadow of government-led development of education and have more freedom and independence, which they see as necessary to compete on an equal playing field in the globalised education era.

The Education Ministry however inevitably blocks or overrides any independent decisions taken by the top institutions on the grounds that it wants to ensure equitable education. "The main goal of the Three No`s policies is not the development of education, but the reduction of private education fees. Therefore, the policy is doomed to fail," said Joe Yung-il, an education critic and a chemistry professor at Yonsei University.

During a visit here for the 100th anniversary celebrations this month of Korea University, Sir Colin Campbell, vice-chancellor of the University of Nottingham in England, expressed views on government involvement which were echoed by other respected visiting education figures from abroad. "The idea of the (United Kingdom) government having a say in admission would be amazing. It would be appalling," Sir Colin said.

But, said President Roh Moo-hyun, "The sure thing is that education should be done at schools (not at cram schools)," referring to opponents of the government-led guidelines in university entrance. The most contentious rule is not to allow universities to consider academic grading of high schools in evaluating freshman applicants. Effectively, the government requires universities to treat a top grade student from a good high school - mostly in affluent areas in south Seoul - the same as a top student from a school with a poorer academic record.

The ministry said university hopefuls should not be judged by their academic achievements as seniors, given that most students are randomly allocated to high schools adjacent to their homes. Since the 1970s, the government has prevented parents and students from picking which high school they want to attend in an attempt to reduce competition from mid-teens to get into prestigious high schools.

But universities say the ministry policy fails to reflect properly the real academic differences among individual applicants and in fact discriminates against students in high schools that are superior to others. "Those students who got a top grade at highly-performing schools may be far better than students in other schools," said Euh Yoon-dae, president of Korea University. "It is basically about the ideology of equality in a sense so that every high school should be treated equally without considering whether the students or the high schools are doing well or not."

Some established private colleges, including Yonsei, Ewha and Korea, did take into account the academic records of applicants` high schools last year in violation of the government rule. The government struck back by penalising the schools, cutting its financial support by 20 per cent this year and next.

Advocates of the ministry`s guidelines say universities are obsessed with grades without assessing the potential of students who did well in a poor district. "I agree that universities would like to choose the best students. But I wonder whether weighing the academic grading of high schools can play a proper screening role," said Park Bu-kwon, an education professor of Dongguk University.

"Who do you think has more potential, an A-plus student who was raised under a farmer in the rural area and another A-plus student who enjoyed the benefit of cram schools in an urban district?" he asked rhetorically. "The student from the countryside can be a lot better given that he or she can be hardly access good private tutors."

The egalitarian education system, however, has an ironical backlash since a number of smart students would like to be assigned to a badly-performing school to obtain even higher grades. "All students would like to go to good high schools, but they have to go to poor schools to get better grades," said Lee Pil-rip, a high school student from a well-known high school in Gyeonggi Province.

The Education Ministry said students are not at a disadvantage because of the rule since school assessments do not count for much in the admission process, at most only 8 per cent of the overall rating. Some top universities criticise the other two rules for also violating their autonomy. The education authorities basically do not like universities to weight their own examinations for the fear such tests would create additional private education requirements. "Essays should not be a major standard. Universities should use the essay test as a supplementary means for in-school grades and the national university exam," said Deputy Education Minister Kim Young-shik.

The final rule - no admission favours for donations - is particularly opposed by private universities since they depend on tuition fees for an average 67 per cent of their budgets. The corresponding figure in industrialised countries is between 20 and 40 per cent and at Harvard University in the United States around 10 per cent. Yonsei University took the issue to the public in early 2000s but failed to whip up social support due to a general antipathy toward the system.

Critics say the "three No`s" policy is not likely to be abolished anytime soon even though a lack of autonomy hamper universities from keeping pace with the rapid globalisation of the education market. "Utility and equity always contradict each other. The common ground for doing away with the three No`s policies has not formed yet. However, the government has to think why Korean universities lag far behind in the global rankings," said Lee Ki-tae, admission dean of Kyunghee University.


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