Monday, September 6, 2010

Education News Roundup

For most Korean high school seniors, the second Thursday in November is a RED LETTER DAY: the day of the College Scholastic Ability Test. It is not an exaggeration to say that many of them see it as the most important day of their lives--this one test, on this one day, determines which universities they can expect to get admitted to. Today's roundup starts with two stories on the subject.

1) A special committee of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology announced changes they will recommend to be made to the CSAT:
Major changes include reducing the number of test subjects by half and offering the exam at two different academic levels. Leaving out the second language and Chinese-character sections from the exam is also under consideration.

This is according to a Chosun Ilbo story titled College Entrance Exam to Be Held Twice a Year from 2014. The article makes no mention of the new dates, other than a reference to the fact it will be offered at two "levels".

2) Korea Times' Kang Shin-who, who often writes on matters educational, covers the same announcement, but makes no mention of the changes described by Chosun Ilbo. Instead, titled New English exam likely to to replace CSAT, Kang's coverage focuses on yet another attempt to finesse Korean students' English scores by writing a new "home-grown" test.
“Evaluation manuals for (English) speaking and writing have been developed and distributed to each school. Training sessions to improve evaluation specialty of English teachers is ongoing,” the ministry official said during the seminar.
Consisting of reading, listening, speaking and writing sections, the new exam will offer three levels of difficulty levels; grade 1 for adults and grades 2 and 3 for students.
During the probation period until 2011, the ministry will further study whether overseas universities will accept the test to be used to determine admissions.

3) Corporal punishment will be banned in Gyeonggi-do beginning in October, sez JoongAng Daily. "What has been considered an effective method of supervising and teaching students in Korean schools" will be replaced by Green Mileage, not viewings of the Stephen King movie, no, but a punishment and reward system. Gyeonggi-do is the large province that surrounds Seoul.
In Gyeonggi, students who were to receive corporal punishment will instead receive “knowledge and virtue-based punishments,” such as writing book reports, completing community service projects or doing extra assignments.
Examination of students' belongings without prior notice, regulation of hair length, verbal abuse and school violence will be prohibited. The teacher’s duty to monitor students' dress code and conduct of behavior at school gates will be removed. Measures will be taken to raise awareness of student rights and student councils will be given greater autonomy.

No mention is made of the rewards. “It will take two to three months to get rid of corporal punishment and for the new system to take effect,” said education office supervisor You Sun-man, in what may win the 2010 Award for Most Optimistic Statement by a Bureaucrat.

4) Over at Soap Opera College Sogang University, an embezzlement scandal takes a dramatic turn, as the DongA Ilbo headline puts it. A (unnamed) professor in a (unnamed) department of the university was apparently caught dead-to-rights in misusing more than 100 million won, and submitted his resignation. However, during the university foundation's audit, it was learned that the chief accuser had lied and suborned perjury. From the article:
The accusing professor said, “Students of the (accused) professor said he embezzled research funds by using their bank accounts and confirmed that he had an inappropriate relationship with one of his students.”
In the investigation, however, the students denied this. One of them with whom the accusing professor claimed to have a conversation said, “The (accusing) professor asked me about the embezzlement case but I didn’t acknowledge it and have no knowledge of an inappropriate relationship.”
“The (accusing) professor made the threat that something unfavorable will happen to me unless I handed him a copy of the bank book (used for embezzlement).”...
A faculty member who knows the relationship between the two professors well said, “They graduated from the same university and have been on bad terms with each other,” adding, “When (the accusing) professor discovered the other’s alleged embezzlement, it seemed (the accusing) professor conducted a secret investigation and made the charge against (the accused) professor out of jealousy.”

5) A recent Korea Herald story purportedly about how Education [is] important to Singapore’s future turns out to be a thinly veiled advertisement to entice Koreans to send their children to the island nation for their English immersion studies. Indeed the only person interviewed in the story is Singapore's Tourism Board Director, Clement Goh. The only other source is a Guardian article from 2009.

Still, Goh has all the facts and figures about Singapore's fine education system, which is totally in English. However, his statements that all teachers use "Standard Englsh" must be taken with a grain of salt. Singaporeans do better than Koreans, surely, but most speak an accented English that mixes Hong Kong British with native consonants, like the soft 'r'. In fact, just as Koreans have Konglish, Chinese have Chinglish, etc, Singaporeans have Singlish.

I am not saying that Koreans who want their kids to have the English immersion experience should not consider Singapore. I'm not even saying the Herald shouldn't write an opinion or a viewpoint article suggesting they should.

But I am saying that they shouldn't write such a piece and pretend it is about how education is the key to Singapore's future.


조안나 said...

Usually I hear Sogang University referred to as Sogang High School...

And from what I heard from a friend who lived in the dorms (as a teacher, not a student) it sounds about right. No booze, no guests, and in the summer, 1 am lock down.

Tuttle said...

Hi 조안나,

You're probably right, as usual. But--I have a student who hopes to go there who has given me some info--it's definitely not a HS, it's a Jesuit university (which probably explains the rules).

It's quite highly ranked, though not of SKY "quality" whatever that means. I think it's the Dae in Daeheung (line 6).