Nurturing Creative, Practical S&T Manpower

Korea hosts the 5th APEC Education Ministerial Meeting



M inister Lee Ju-Ho of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) said, ¡°The nation should change the science & technology administration paradigm from a catch-up model to a creative frontier model and should invest more so that creativity, autonomy and curiosity can be inspired.¡±
Minister Lee stressed the need to nurture creative, practical science and technology talents departing from the past practice of science and technology education which focused on learning by rote and problem solving.
He said ¡°True creativity and the ability to think outside the box can only be achieved by crossing boundaries and disciplines. MEST aims to create an interdisciplinary environment where researchers can develop and use creativity in their work.¡±
The 5th APEC Education Ministerial Meeting (2012 AEMM), slated for May 21-23 in Gyeongju, will be the biggest educational meeting ever held in Korea.
¡°We expect that the meeting will be an opportunity for Korea to show our education achievements, strengthen education cooperation among APEC member economies, and promote development and prosperity through education,¡± Minister Lee said. The following are excerpts from Minister Lee¡¯s interview with NewsWorld in which he spoke of his ministry¡¯s policies to promote science and technology and the upcoming 2012 AEMM as we celebrate the 45th anniversary of Science Day.
Question: Could you tell our readers about the significance of designation of the Month of Science in April and major events in 2012?
Answer: The Month of Science was designated on April 21, 1968 in celebration of the first anniversary of the establishment of the ministry of science and technology (former name of MEST) to inform our people about the importance of science and technology and encourage their participation for the development of science and technology. As we held many science related events in April in the past, the month has been designated as the Month of Science.
About 730 events are to take place across the nation during the month of April to encourage students to take more interest in science and technology and give them chances to experience scientific principles.
To give you more details on our major events in 2012, ¡°Magic Fantasia¡± will take place at the Gwacheon National Science Museum from April 14 to May 13 to explain scientific principles via science magic tricks and give the participants opportunities to gain hands-on experiences. Also, performances and diverse events will be held during ¡°Happy Science Day¡± from April 21 to 22. The Seoul Science Museum will be the venue of the ¡°Love Science! Love Family!¡± event in which a creativity experience booth will be set up and a science quiz contest will be held.
The ¡°Science Creativity Family Camp¡± program will take place under the theme ¡°Road Mission Adventure with Family¡± for a two-night, three-day run from April 27 to 29 in four spheres ¡Æ¢â the Seoul metropolitan area, the Jeolla Province, the Gangwon Province, and the Gyeongsang Province.
Moreover, a tour program to research institutes including the Korea Aerospace Research Institute and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute will be prepared. Science creativity programs will be held at state-run science museums throughout the year so that families can enjoy weekend outings.
Q: Could you explain about the ministry¡¯s plans for the science and technology advancement and the current status of them?
A: Despite a short span of 40 to 50 years, the science and technology sector has seen its competitiveness improve on a constant basis to play as a driving force behind the nation¡¯s economic development. Korea ranked 5th and 14th in terms of science and technology competitiveness respectively, according to IMD. The nation took 10th place in terms of the Composite Science and Technology Information Index (COSTII), a survey of 30 OECD member countries by the National Science & Technology Commission.
Korea poured about 44 trillion won into R&D expenditures in 2010 to rank seventh in the world. The nation¡¯s portion of R&D expenditure out of gross domestic product stood at 3.74 percent to place itself third in the world. Korea has seen its average R&D increase rate rise to 11.1 percent since 2000 to rank second following China.
The nation is around sixth place in the number of researchers (Full Time Equivalent) with 264,118 of them as of 2010. Nearly 10.7 out of every 1,000 economically active people were engaged in R&D activities and this portion is one of the highest in the world.
Thanks to these state-initiative efforts, Korea¡¯s R&D achievements in terms of the number of papers and patents increased dramatically. The nation saw the number of SCI papers surging to 39,834 in 2010, an 11.8 percent jump from 2008, and the number of patents rose 22.4 percent to 9,669 during the same period.
MEST will not rest on its laurels on R&D outcomes and growth. We will devote ourselves to creating an environment in which researchers can carry out R&D activities with a challenging sprit and creative attitude rather than being afraid of failures. As an effort, we will shift the R&D paradigm from a ¡°fast follower¡± of advanced countries into a ¡°first mover¡± so that the nation can evolve into a global science and technology power. The ministry is striving to build a creative, researcher-friendly environment by introducing a Korean-style grant system in which faithful researchers are given no responsibility for risk-high experimental failures. We plan to beef up the support for future core R&D activities such as convergence, brain, stem cell, and climate change to strategically foster big sciences such as nuclear power and aerospace while facilitating the commercialization of basic and original research outcomes in order to further enhance R&D efficiency.
The Leaders in Industry-College Cooperation (LINC) Program is a part of our projects to provide tailored education to talents in engineering colleges to meet industry¡¯s needs and expand employment. We plan to create good jobs in science and technology fields by establishing a basic science research institute, improving compensation to college researchers with a doctorate degree, supporting female scientists and engineers¡¯ to return to work and exploring diverse policies such as ¡°Brain Return 500¡± to attract talented researchers from around the world. We expect these efforts to contribute to making our nation rise to new heights as a global science and technology power.
Q: Could you elaborate on the current status of Korea¡¯s R&D personnel and policies in nurturing competent talents?
A: The size of the nation¡¯s science and technology human resources is world class level. The number and percentage of college and university applicants choosing the science study rose from 210,000 in 2010 to 240,000 in 2011. The number is forecast to be on a constant rise in the years to come as the nation saw the number of college and university engineering students increase from 750,000 in 2009 to 780,000 in 2011. But according to the demand and supply prospects of science and technology manpower, Korea is projected to be short of 14,000 engineering doctorate degree holders by 2018. In this regard, the government is making its fullest efforts to maintain qualitative growth by cultivating high-quality manpower on top of quantitative manpower growth.
Specifically, we are executing programs such as Science Technology Engineering Art & Mathematics (STEAM), education for the gifted in science, and Global Ph. D Scholarship (GPS) to encourage potentially gifted talents into science and technology fields. STEAM, which made its debut in 2011, is a futuristic education program to encourage primary and secondary students to take more interests in science and equip them with comprehensive insights. This year, we plan to develop an education program that offers hands-on education on high-tech applications in daily life for the development and expansion of interdisciplinary talents education. Also, we will establish 32 future science schools and run 80 interdisciplinary talents schools
The ministry plans to expand and improve education for the gifted in science so that students can explore and evolve their potential gift in science. To this end, we plan to expand the beneficiaries of education for the gifted in science by having schools operate a class for them and expand gifted students education centers at offices of education and universities and colleges. Selection of applicants of the schools for the gifted and science high school has shifted from test based to observation or recommendation based.
Last year, MEST launched the GPS system to nurture excellent engineering college students into national scientists and engineers. Excellent gifted college and university undergraduates in the science and technology fields are selected as the recipients of Presidential Scholarships while global doctorate fellowships are offered during master¡¯s and doctor¡¯s courses and those selected for the Presidential post-doctorate scholarship will receive financial support so that they can immerse themselves in study and research until they can grow into independent researchers. We live in the era of the knowledge-based economy in which a renowned scientist is considered more precious than an oil field. Korea, a resources-scant nation, will spare no efforts to contribute to the development of the global community and emerge as a world-class nation by nurturing and producing high-quality scientists and engineers.
Q: Could you introduce the policies to advance the science and technology culture?
A: We are implementing diverse projects to advance science and technology to meet the rising public demands as the importance and influence of science and technology on the socioeconomic development is increasing.
First, we endeavor to expand the infrastructure for the advancement of science and reduce the science and technology divide under the catchphrase ¡°Together and Warm-hearted Science Culture Projects.¡± To this end, the ministry is developing and disseminating consumer oriented science culture contents and promoting science culture of sharing and caring by dispatching science collegian sharing volunteer teams to vulnerable areas to ease the science and technology divide. The ministry has already begun offering daily life science classes in eup, myeon and dong (Korean names for administrative districts)
Second, MEST is carrying out science culture projects to develop interdisciplinary contents combining science, arts & humanities, and other fields, and to synchronize science education with ordinary school education. In this regard, we are concentrating on the development of diverse contents characterized by creativity and convergence by supporting the private sector¡¯s science culture projects tailored to meet clients¡¯ demands and the development of interdisciplinary convergence tasks. We also operate daily life science class programs linked with STEAM as well as science thesis, science reading, and creativity and convergence classes to link school science education and regional science education.
Third, we strive to facilitate science and technology communications by providing high-quality science and technology information and to enhancing public awareness and understating toward science and technology.
Q: Could you tell us the mid- and long-term science and technology devel-opment plans?
A: To predict future technology demand, the government conducts periodic surveys on science and technology prospects, which are made to provide basic data for the establishment of science and technology policies and strategies while establishing a science and technology master plan every five years to set mid- and long-term development policy goals and directions.
In 2008, the Lee Myung-bak government came up with the so-called 577 Strategy Plan, to set aside the equivalent of 5 percent of GDP as its R&D expenditure and to present strategies for the seven major areas with the goal of becoming the global top seven science and technology power by 2012. The government is developing science and technology after the establishment of the new growth engine, vision & strategies, comprehensive green technology R&D plan, and the NBIC National Convergence Technology Map in accordance with the S&T Master Plan.
In line with the science and technology future vision of enhancing values for public lives and making society realize dreams, MEST has set the 2040 policy goal of becoming the global top five science technology leader, and put forward five major policy tenets: expansion of creative and leading research development; reinforcement of knowledge system and S&T manpower; advancement of S&T innovation through international cooperation; promotion of green growth-oriented technology innovation; and strengthening of science and technology roles for the contribution to people and society. The ministry has been carrying out the development of the 25 future core technologies it has explored to support the five major policy tenets.
Q: Could you tell us about the APEC Education Ministerial Meeting and how your ministry is working on this meeting?
A: The 5th APEC Education Ministerial Meeting (2012 AEMM) will take place in Gyeongju on May 21-23. The 2012 AEMM will be the biggest educational meeting ever to be held in Korea.
Under the theme of ¡°Future Challenge and Educational Responses: Fostering Global, Innovative, and Cooperative Education,¡± education ministers from 21 APEC member economies will assemble at the meeting to take stock of the pending issues and challenges in the education to discuss ways to address changes of future society through education innovation and cooperation.
The member economies pin high concern and expectations on the upcoming ministerial meeting, being hosted by Korea, a nation that has made strides in economic development through education, and we¡¯re also making our utmost efforts to make the 2012 AEMM a success.
On top of the Main Meeting, the 2012 AEMM will also hold diverse side events such as Future Class for the 5th AEMM, Education Promotion Exhibition for APEC Member Economies, International Forum on Education Innovation for Global and Creative Competence and Outstanding School Visit programs including meister schools that show excellence in smart education, mathematics, and science education.
Participants at the Future Class Theme Pavilion will be able to get a glimpse into futuristic class experiments via e-Learning, SMART education, digital textbooks, and the vision and roles of future education.
The Education Promotion Exhibition will be a venue to showcase 21st century education systems, education policies, and exemplary practices, while the global forum will present lectures by globally renowned academicians on creative & character building and SMART education.
We expect that the 5th APEC Ministerial Meeting will be an opportunity for Korea to show its educational achievements and strengthen education cooperation in the APEC region. The meeting will lay the foundation for APEC member economies to develop and prosper through education.

Minister of Education, Science and Technology Lee Ju-Ho explains his ministry policies on education in a recent interview. / photo by NewsWorld

MEST Minister Lee expounds on education policies for science and technology on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of Science Day.

MEST Minister Lee holds an interview with NewsWorld Publisher-President Elizabeth M. Oh.

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