Sunday, July 3, 2011

Education News Wrap

Time for the weekly *cough, cough* post about what's going on in education here on the peninsula. And this one is particularly interesting, or at least [your adjective here] since it crystallizes some of the key issues in Korean education. 

First up, there is "the problem with an easy CSAT prep test", the problem being that too many Moms complained that the test does not allow their particular genius children to shine, since there was just too much shiny-ness.
It’s an important issue because CSAT scores are weighed heavily by universities in their admissions criteria. “If the official CSAT this year is this easy, getting just one problem wrong will place you in the second level,” said Park Su-jin of Seoul Foreign Language High School. Park is in charge of helping students at the school with their university admissions.
“Because of this [exam], it will be harder on the students.”
One might suggest that the best action on an easy exam is not getting just one problem wrong.  That's what Norfolk & Chance did last Thursday at 3AP in winning the Trivia Contest, after all.   But this is Korea, and it's always more complicated than that:
[Previously] KICE came under heavy criticism from parents. Last year, only 11 brought home a score of 100 percent for those sections. The prep test is intended to be used a barometer for students to determine their readiness for November’s CSAT. [...]
This isn’t the first time KICE [Korea Institute for Curriculum Evaluation] has come under fire for the CSAT’s difficulty level, which was introduced in 2008. Every year, parents complain that it is either too difficult or too easy. Korean students often compare it to water or fire.
It’s an important issue because CSAT scores are weighed heavily by universities in their admissions criteria.
 So, which is the greater problem, that the test can be by turns judged--by less than impartial parties--too easy or too hard, or that a single test, administered on one and only one day in November, is weighed so heavily in in college admissions?
Next, three recent stories concerned the digital age and the Korean student.  Yonhap News via KH describes the results of an OECD study on digital literacy.  The story begins with the sentence:
Young South Koreans learn the best from computers and the Internet according to a survey of 15 year-olds in 19 countries, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said on Monday.
PhotobucketThis sentence is a total--and typical--misunderstanding of the report.  It really says that Korean students, thanks to their unwholesome addiction to PC bangs and MMRPGs like Starcraft, have a head start on digital reading.  Reading.  They can read from a computer screen better ... and "their ability to solve problems using the Internet is even better,” a Seoul Education Ministry official said, without a shred of evidence for his statement from the study.

Even an occasional reader of this blog knows I am as techno-savvy as most teachers and more so than most with similar hair-hue; at my school I am the "God of Powerpoint" since I seem able to bend that program to my will.  I bought into the Internet for homework information, cool links and interactive assignments when they could be found, long ago.  I totally believe in the power of technology for good, and of course, for ill. 

All textbooks to go digital by 2015, announces another KH headline, stating that soon students in all age groups will be able to access textbooks and activity books using smartphones, tablet PCs and so on.  This is a good thing.

Citing the best score South Korea garnered in an OECD digital reading survey, the Education Ministry believes that the digital platforms will bring about a sea change in the classroom and boost the country’s educational competitiveness.

Oh, dear.  Well, see, no.  That's not ... um,  [sigh]  Or, put it this way:

The problem we face now, however, is an exaggerated trust in digital education. Some people wrongfully assume that the quality of academic activity will improve with the use of multimedia digital material instead of conventional textbooks. However, without a teacher’s guidance, the impact of digital textbooks may fall short of expectations. There is a risk that digital textbooks will only aggravate addiction to the Internet among the young, when 12.8 percent of students are already suffering from this condition.

The above is from a JoongAng Ilbo editorial titled Smart education, not lazy teachers, which does a reasonable job lying out context for the e-textbook, teachers, and the computer-based classroom in the 21st century.   Many in the educational administration field, especially the political wing--in Korea and America and probably everywhere--seem to view technology as a money-saver: more technology units=less teacher units.  Certainly, quality interactive materials can free a teacher's time from rote processes like grading, but they cannot replace the truly interactive experience that is at the heart of education: teacher-student face time.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I'm curious about reading speed / comprehension of paper versus digital books. I read a paper back novel recently in 1-1/2 days, which seemed quicker than reading it electronically. But the verdict is still out.

Then there is a speed reading technique I heard about almost 15 years ago - words are presented one at a time. This supposedly increases your reading speed considerably, and doesn't effect your comprehension. I did a quick search and there's something called ZapReader that embodies this method.

The "Similarly Hued-Hair" Stumbler