Sunday, October 30, 2011

Education News Roundup

With this being the Halloween weekend, I couldn't resist this story about how Korean mothers simply have to whine about every-damn-thing: Mothers fret over high Halloween expenses in Korea.
Hundreds of online Halloween goods and clothing rental stores have sprung up in Korea. Most Halloween clothes are imported and priced between 85,000 (75 U.S. dollars) and 100,000 won (88 dollars).
Large discount stores have also jumped on the bandwagon. Over the past several years, Lotte Mart has been seen sales of Halloween goods such as crowns, pumpkin baskets and clothes rise 20 percent each year. Sales have grown 53 percent this year.
Many Korean housewives, however, fret over having to buy Halloween costumes for around 100,000 won (88 dollars) that are worn for just Halloween.
My ass! First of all, my local E-Mart as recently as today had dozens of Princess and fairy costumes, as well as pirate and firefighter outfits for 9200 to 12000 W. Frankenstein's monster and Munch Scream masks were around 5000 W . It doesn't even take creativity to go from the mask to full outfit just with stuff from a kid's closet.

Whose fault is the whole Halloween frenzy, by the way? Why, we waygookin, of course! It's not all these Stepforduh wivesuh keeping up with the Jonesuh!
A woman who has a five-year-old daughter said, “I don’t understand why schools are trying to celebrate an American holiday. Our children are unaware of the origin or the meaning of Halloween.”

On a side note, I have done a Halloween lesson each year with my classes, and they consistently know all the key facts about Halloween, or at least the usual myths. Monsters, ghosts, trick or treat, candy, etc. They know pumpkin, though there is lots of spelling confusion, or at least 호박, and it was my goal this year that they should be able to distinguish between a pumpkin and a jack-o'-lantern.

Moving on, a more serious education story: Saturdays designated as 'Sports Days' at schools, according to the Korea Times. Of course, we're no longer supposed to have school on Saturdays, but since everyone does, education authorities think it would be good to
"[...]encourage students to join various sports clubs offered at their school where they can voluntarily enjoy sports every Saturday,” an official from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said. “Students from different schools will also compete with each other in a national-level contest, too.” ...
The move is part of efforts to provide students with a supplementary program on Saturdays as a five-day school week starts next year. At present, students have five-day school weeks twice a month.
For various sports-related programs during “Sports Day,” the ministry will increase the number of physical education teachers and instructors to about 8,000 from the current 1,800.
This is all a Good Thing (TM), but it strikes me as Too Little Too Late (TM).

Speaking of which, the JoongAng Daily is tooting its own horn for having been selected as one of four publishers to create new English-language educational materials for elementary and middle school after-school classes. ‘My Apple News’ debuts in EBS English class, says the headline, though it didn't seem on first glance to be related to the recent lamented passing of Steve Jobs.

'Newspapers in education' seems to be a growing fad in English education here, though I remember using the papers as a graduate assistant in the Reading Dept. back at WGC. According to Ass. Prof. Peter Kipp at Ehwa, “The biggest advantage of learning English by reading English-language newspapers is that it offers interesting content that encourages students’ reading skills.”

I actually have to disagree. "Interesting content" is in the eye of the beholder--after all, any reading textbook author fully believes and intends that the content is "interesting" to his target audience. No, the biggest thing, well, two biggest things: currency and consistency.

Presumably, stories in a kids' paper (Weekly Reader, anyone?) are today, hip, happening, fresh, as the idiom goes, off the presses. Second, they have a consistent reabability level. A quick note about this, then you can go and look it up yourself. It is a common belief that newspapers are written at a third grade level. This is not true, it's just that most politicians function at a third grade level.

But seriously, "readability" varies by organ, with a generalization that the more popular the pap, the more basic its readability. What is true is that most paps will rate consistently around a certain readability level. People tend to gravitate towards an organ that matches their reading level, and it is a fact that USA Today has a lower (easier) readability score than the Boston Globe, for example. The trick for educators is to match readability to the level of the students, and hopefully that will be accomplished by 'My Apple News'.

The English Department Chair at my school, Mr Right, is completing his Masters in English at Yonsei, and has asked me on several occasions to proof his papers--with suitable food and drink compensation, of course. His thesis is on newspapers in education, and if the abstract of his research with Young-il students is to be believed, their vocabulary and useage grew by 20 to 30 percent over a two semester NIEE course.

I can state that his writing ability has improved considerably over the last two years. His first couple of papers were a mess, and not just the grammar and language; logic, structure and flow were equally poor. Happily, this abstract contained only a few minor grammatical/typo errors, and two or three sentences that didn't follow, or just didn't fit logically. He either needed an additional bit to make the connection or some kind of rearranging to make the flow more logical. Good for him, and I suppose, Yonsei, for operating a program that works.

Also, on the topic of Mr Right (actually Lee, well, actually 이), he's the best co-teacher I've had. Why? He's not afraid to speak English, to add something from a Korean/personal perspective, ask a question if he doesn't know or understand ...

His English is not perfect--he has a few sloppy habits and can't stop adding "s" to the ends of certains words--but he puts it out there and is insistent that his students do the same. It's a lot more like "co-teaching" with him than anyone else who's ever been assigned that job. He also assigned himself last year to be my 동생, little brother. Then hugged me so hard he broke a rib.


kevin.thurston said...

This is interesting (both the fad and the research) regarding using newspapers. One of my classes has finished Harry Potter so now we are going to be doing newspaper work every week. It was her mom's idea, and it all makes sense now ^ ^

Superdrew said...

Ass. Prof. is one of the most pleasing abbreviations that I have ever encountered. I just love it.

Incidentally, who's rib broke from the hug, his or yours? Or am I just reading this too literally? I bet that there wasn't really a broken rib, was there?

Tuttle said...

Even funnier is when you see Assistant Manager abbrev. similarly.

Oh, yes, I did indeed end up with a broken rib. It hurt quite badly, and interfered with my breathing for months.

One thing I learned was that in the old days, lots of [people died from broken ribs because of a lack of powerful painkillers. It hurts to draw a deep breath--so you don't do it; as a result you don't ever clear your lungs, increasing the likelihood of pneumonia.

Chris said...

Since you brought it up, is the Weekly Reader still around? If so, maybe you could do an experiment and ship some over for a couple of months...

Tuttle said...

WR is indeed still around--more than ever in fact, as it is an educational publishing behemoth.

For a time at THS, the town newspaper's owners sent their kid to school there, and every teacher who taught the kid got huge stacks of the pap to use for free!

As a science/math teacher, this never did much for me, as the only numbers that ever appeared seemed to be the ages of suspects in the police blotter.