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Studies have shown that despite the great efforts of Korean students in college admissions, higher education may not be the equalizer that people think.

“Although many people in South Korea believe that education is the single greatest hope for upward social mobility, and they do invest a lot of money in children’s education, these findings raise questions about the idea that just going to college can promote social mobility,” Sangwoo Lee wrote Dao, a candidate for a Ph.D., Cambridge University College of Education and author of a new paper Higher Education Policy.

His research confirms the traditional view that “selective public four-year universities” are “the main engine of upward social mobility,” at least for those students who can enter them.

The three traditional institutions nicknamed SKY—Seoul National University (SNU), Korea University, and Yonsei University—and Korea Institute of Advanced Science and Technology (KAIST) are among the top in the country.

However, the study found that while 36% of the wealthiest students can enter top universities, only 9% of the poorest students do. “Due to lower incomes, many elite universities are more likely to play the role of glass floors rather than social ladders,” the paper said.

“The Korean higher education system is severely stratified,” Lee told Times Higher Education“Many of the requirements for university admissions are related to family background. A few top universities have become the main gateways to top or elite careers.” For example, about half of the newly appointed judges come from an institution, SNU.

This study may be the largest of its kind in South Korea, and universities in South Korea generally do not disclose information on graduate results like the United States and the United Kingdom.

Lee analyzed data from the Government Graduate Career Mobility Survey, which tracked more than 37,000 students who graduated between 2007 and 2010. He matched their family background, the “prestige” and location of the higher education institution, and their income at this age of 29 or 30.

He found that two-year universities outside the capital of Seoul may be unsung heroes promoting “bottom-up mobility,” which means going from the lowest quintile of household income to the highest quintile of graduate income. This may simply be because they enrolled more low-income students overall.

Lee writes that these lesser-known institutions “have the potential to become engines of upward social mobility…arguably, they should be the focus of more attention from policymakers and stakeholders.”

The situation is different for middle-class students, who have achieved the highest upward mobility when entering selective four-year universities.

At the same time, the top quintile of students tends to enter elite universities to “maintain their status.” Lee writes that “selective universities are more likely to play the role of glass floors,” which means they help “protect” wealthy students and prevent them from “slipping.”

An unfortunate trend in all three income levels studied in this article is that men’s social mobility is higher than women’s.

For young women, “Universities may not necessarily compete fairly in terms of income gap,” Lee said, adding that the government and universities should work together to resolve the gender pay gap in South Korea, which is the largest among the Economic Cooperation Organization and the Economic Cooperation Organization. . Developing country.

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