Thursday, July 8, 2010

Even More Education News

The success of the progressive or liberal faction of the Korean educational establishment in the June elections continues to give the conservative papers here (and that's all of them) fits.

1) The Dong-A daily has a report on the "students' bill of rights" I blogged a few posts down, quoting survey results from the KFTU (the conservative alliance of teachers' unions) illustrating their rank and file disapprove of granting "human rights" to students.

Certainly, this is an area fraught with difficulty in a school culture awash in authoritarianism, but the quotes the paper chooses in order to illustrate what a bad idea students' rights are are asinine at best. For instance:
A high school teacher in Seoul said, “A student says he’s hungry in class and wants to get something to eat. I say that because you’re in class now, go there on a break.”
“Then the student cries violation of his human rights.”
Another high school teacher said, “A student was studying another subject in class. I told him to stop but he didn’t budge and called it a human rights violation."

Surely, all concerned can be led to understand the difference between a student exercising his rights, and a student who is being disruptive in class. I have not seen the document, but I'm pretty sure "Students have the right to leave class whenever they feel a mite peckish" will not be on it.

Still, something along the lines of "Students have the right not be beaten for minor violations of arbitrary rules by capricious teachers" is even harder to argue against. The article gave two grafs of rebuttal to the progressives, one of which was an internet forum posting by a student. It is to laugh.

2) Both the Times and Herald report on the on-going conflict over testing-mania and the newly-elected provincial education chiefs' moves to de-emphasize testing--at least a little bit. The issue is a two-day national standardized test scheduled for next week. Some superintendents want to provide a substitute program for students who plan to boycott the test. While the Times regularly decries the damaging effect of intense competition in the school culture here, the story describes the testing as part of the national goverment's "efforts to bring fresh competition among schools."

The Herald published today an editorial on the episode, stating in part:
The Gangwon and North Jeolla superintendents reportedly instructed primary, middle and high schools in their provinces to develop substitute programs for those students who boycott the tests on five subjects scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday. What they are doing is little different from encouraging students to boycott the tests when they are required to make efforts to ensure that no student misses them.

Actually, what they are doing is way different. Ordinarily, I am not in favor of students boycotting school--I'm not even in favor of it here, but I am sympathetic to the impetus. Testing is an essential part of the learning and teaching process. But enough is enough. In high school at least, these kids probably fill in bubble sheets in their sleep, they are tested so much.

At my school, this semester alone, they've eleven days of school-administered exams (mid-terms and finals) plus six days of national tests. With two more to go, apparently. It will be the same next semester. So that's about 17% of their school year. And that's not even talking about the second Thursday in November, when the fate of high school seniors is determined by their score on the Korean SAT.

The editorial concludes with the following unsupported broadside against the progressives:
Another problem with them is their move to boycott the evaluation of schoolteacher performance. But it stands to reason to encourage competition among teachers and reward those who outperform others.

With over twenty years in the classroom, I'm not sure that stands to reason at all. Encouraging cooperation makes far more sense to me.

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