Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Obama on Korean Education

"Obama Lauds Korea's Education of Children" screams the headline at Korea Times today. Although he actually did not do that--he used Korea as a benchmark for comparison:
"Our children _ listen to this _ our children spend over a month less in school than children in South Korea every year," Obama told a gathering at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce here [the location is not specified in the Yonhap report, though it is obviously not South Korea]. "That's no way to prepare them for a 21st-century economy."

He makes a valid point, but more is not always better. Obama further says, correctly, that the US education calendar remains unchanged from our agrarian days, when children were needed to help out on the family farm.

As an old hand in that system, the flaw is not so much too much time off, but taking it all in one big chunk--three months during the summer. We spend two months or more in our core classes at the start of each school year reteaching what students forgot over the summer hols. I have long maintained we should divide the school year into three terms of three months, and take a month or so for vacation after each term. That's long enough to take an extended trip if you want, but still short enough that little content needs relearning. The article ends:
Obama's remarks came as a surprise to many South Koreans as the country's education system has been under constant public criticism due to its lack of creativity and heavy dependence on private tutoring.

Its heavy dependence on tutoring is because students are at those hagwons so late that they sleep during their classes during the day, so they have to go to hagwons at night to catch up what they missed while they were sleeping ...

Bonus Photograph: Some fossils and fine stones at a stall in the Seoul Folk Flea Market.

stones and fossils at stall in Seoul Folk Flea Market

1 comment:

Jo-Anna said...

haha, I wholehartedly agree. These kids study too much. They're at my hagwon till 8:40 (or later if they have detention) and I know some kids go till 10. Then they have to go home and do their homework. Then they have to be at school at 7:30 the next morning. That's not healthy.
A: I think High Schoolers shouldn't start school till 9 am, sleep is too important at that age.
B: They should not be at hagwons for hours a day. Don't get me wrong, I think that they need all the practice they can get in English, but, that's cause i'm an English teacher. If I were a math teacher, I'd say they need all the help in math that they can get. There's no need for 2nd graders to be at a hagwon studying English for two hours a day after their real school. Esp. if they don't enjoy it.