Sunday, April 24, 2011

Education News

1) Korean History will become a mandatory subject in Korean high schools starting next year, according to articles in the JoongAng Daily and the Korea Times. The decision reverses a policy adopted only in 2009 to make history optional in the name of decreasing the academic burden on students. Why the quick turnaround?
“Due to the Japanese government’s recent claim over Dokdo, demands have been high for teaching students the history of Korea,” said Lee Ju-ho, the education minister. “The new policy is aimed at encouraging students to feel proud of Korean history and uphold their will to protect our territory.”

Ah, Dokdo. Of course.

2) In an unpublished survey of 290,000 Korean students and parents, students give low approval to leveled single-classroom English courses.
The Hankyoreh acquired an unpublished Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) research report on the results of English education policy and plans for development Thursday through the office of Kwon Young-ghil, Democratic Labor Party lawmaker and National Assembly Education, Science and Technology Committee member. Middle and high school students were surveyed on five areas of English education policy, namely leveled single-classroom English courses, English-only classes, EBS English education broadcasts, weekly one-hour conversation classes, and subject-based classrooms. Of these, only the EBS program was found to have more than 50 percent of respondents answering that they believed their English skills improved after the experience. Positive response rates generally fell in the 40 percent range for the remainder.

Fewer than half the high school (39%) and middle school (48%) students responded that they believed subject-based classrooms would be helpful in improving their English skills. These would generally be classrooms in which native speaking teachers require students to listen to English and actually speak in English some non-zero amount.

"In contrast, some 64.9 percent of high school students and 68.9 percent of middle school students responded affirmatively to a question about whether they believed the EBS [television] program helped them develop their English abilities." In this class, students are not required to do anything other than watch TV, or go to sleep.
“This report clearly shows that the Lee Myung-bak administration’s ‘English immersion education’ is nothing more than a lot of noisy sloganeering, and that satisfaction rates at the actual scenes are low on the whole,” Kwon [Young-ghil, Democratic Labor Party lawmaker] said.

This report in actually proves nothing at all, except perhaps that Korean middle and high school students hate to actually speak English and much prefer to sleep or watch TV. The survey asked their opinions but did nothing to evaluate their English proficiency or its improvement.

But let's be realistic. I (like most in EPIK) teach students for fifty minutes once a week, in about fifteen of the 19 weeks of a semester. That's 25 hours of contact time, max. There is not a lot of room in there to affect dramatic change--so I settle for incremental improvement, mostly in the unwillingness to try speaking a little bit.

Not surprisingly, high marks were found in the elementary school area, where about 80% felt that adding one to two hours of English instruction per week would help them improve their English abilities. No shit, Sherlock.

The Hankoryeh story begins with this anecdote:
In January 2008, then-Presidential Transition Committee Chairwoman Lee Kyung-sook, currently chairperson of the Korea Student Aid Foundation, said at a hearing on English education, “Americans do not understand when you say ‘oh-ren-jee.’ You need to say ‘ah-rinj’ for them to understand you.” Lee expressed the view that the method for writing English words should be changed accordingly. “Ah-rinj" subsequently became a symbol of the Lee Myung-bak administration’s “English immersion policy,” and a number of English education policies were implemented under the administration, including leveled single-classroom English courses. Three years later, however, the results have been poor.

Indeed, Koreans still say oh-ren-jee. But other than that, actual results of the programs were left totally unexamined by the report.


George Bailey Sees The World! said...

Oh, this post makes me smile, then I think about it a little, and then it makes me cry. Too much truth here. Elementary school does seem a bit more fulfilling at times.

Chris said...

Is this proposed History requirement (84 hours) like a full time course all three years of High School? Also, I read that this used to always be a requirement, but was removed in 2009. Looking back, I always felt that the History instruction I got in High School received was inadequate, and our county was only 200 years old! How much more difficult it must be in Europe and Asia where histories go back thousands and thousands of years. Of course, that's in hindsight - as a High School student, I could never get excited about history like I do now.

One benefit of "oh-ran-jee" pronounciation is that you don't need to be a Tom Lehrer to make a rhyme for Orange. Compare:

Eating an orange
While making love
Makes for bizarre enj-
oyment thereof
-Tom Lehrer

I ate orangee
with my sandwichee
along with kimchee
for my lunchee
-The Stumbler

I'd better keep my day job...

Tuttle said...

Dave: It's easier to get them to talk, right?

Chris: I think this equals one term of contact hours (4 classes per week). Yes, they took it away and brought it back within two years, apparently on the Dokdo Doctrine.

My history teacher friend Jeff always notes with interent that adults frequently tell him how they didn't care for the subject in school but have become more and more interested in history the older they get.

PS: the poetry forum is around the corner, second door past Accounts.