Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Education News Roundup

Not much is happening on the education front as the school year has ended along with the calendar one--the new school year traditionally begins the day after Sam-il or 3-1, the March First Movement, which was an early attempt by Koreans to rebel against Japanese occupation. Similarly, in the US, school traditionally begins the day after Labor Day.

Anyway, Korea Times carries a report on SMOE, under new superintendant Gwak No Hyun, promising to publish the identity of schools where principals and others have been caught in "corrupt or illicit practices":
A list of such schools will be posted on the office’s website (www.sen.go.kr) as part of moves to root out corruption at schools.
It will also disclose the outcome of audits on schools and staff members. However, the disclosure of the names of teachers and other staff members will be withheld.
"Revealing the names of staff involved in misconduct will be difficult as it could conflict with related laws, but school names will be made public regardless of the severity of the offenses," said Song Byung-choon, an inspector of the city education office. "It will help root out illicit practices," Song added.

Seems like a logical, even minimal, sort of step to take. KT also has an article of interest in Business/Finance--it's actually an opinion piece, but it doesn't carry any labelling--regarding the future of university education in Korea. Titled "Will 'gross well-being product' resonate soon?", here are the nut grafs:
It is hard to believe that there is a government that discourages its citizens from going to college, but Korea is such a country. A year ago, Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-hyun said Korea needs fewer universities for the sake of its economy. His faith remains firm in the New Year.
The Ministry of Strategy and Finance said in its 2011 policy plan that Korea should reduce the number of universities through “restructuring” in order to raise “competence” and to “nurture a workforce that fits industrial demand.”
In other words, the government will try to shut down dozens of universities this year so that more high school graduates have to give up on going to college and instead take blue-collar jobs.

The author, Cho Jin-seo, is arguing that the government is turning its back on the idea of measuring the nation's success through a "happiness index" and will focus singlemindedly on burnishing its GDP numbers. Back to the relation with education, he opines:
The change in educational budget structure has a symbolic meaning in this debate of which matters more between economic growth and happiness. The idea of reducing number of universities and cutting state funds to liberal arts and social science courses, and of shifting the saved government budget to vocational training programs at two-year colleges and high schools is appealing to policymakers who prioritize GDP over the joy of learning.
There is resistance, however. Professors at Seoul National University, the most prestigious school in Korea, are holding rallies on its campus this winter to protest the government’s decision to make the school run as a public foundation, where board members will be designated by the education ministry. The teachers fear that this will lead to closure of many liberal art programs and contaminate the school’s academic atmosphere with capitalism.

Interesting stuff. Still, while the GNP (ruling party) assumption about happiness and economic growth is just that, an assumption, so we must admit is it an assumption that higher education automatically leads to higher quality of life.

A bit more mundane, and possibly more practical, is this Korea Herald piece: Teachers seek to reshape English education. The article looks at three schools with "creative English programs", identified by Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, which try to bridge the divide between what students "learn in school with what society expects from them."

Disseminating 10 idioms and expressions per week throughout the school, rewarding students for "creative, longer sentences", creating an "Englsih-only environment" ... Reading between the lines, the primary innovation of these schools is that they have streamed or split their English classes according to English ability not just overall academic ability. Something I have been asking for at my school since the week after I arrived.

Scheduling that kind of thing is an absolute nightmare, I know, having done some scheduling myself; still, they promised me at the last department meeting (a delightful hanu beef place called 대도시) it's going to happen, but warned me that it will mean more lesson preparations for me. I think I can cope.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just an anecdotal support for reducing Liberal Arts education in favor of vocational training:

West Central Technical College, Newnan Campus, has become one of the most successful public/private partnerships in this region's recent history.

By a large margin most individuals will benefit far greater from vocational training, than from LA and go on to lead productive and happy lives.

Judge Smails From CaddyShack: Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too.