[OUTLOOK]How to Channel Our Zeal for EducationToward the end of President Park Chung Hee's rule, the government barred the nation's middle and high school students from attending cram schools. But the move backfired, as families took to secret and highly expensive private tutoring. The government, then was forced to crack down on illegal private tutoring.
In foreigners' eyes, this was totally incomprehensible, but the core idea of the policy moves was to cool down the fervent educational ardor of parents that resulted in intense pressure on students and to make students realize that studies are not all there is to life.
Obviously, those policies to suppress learning were failures. Even if the educational authorities were to abolish the current competitive entrance system for the nation's universities, and the schools used a lottery to select their students, private tutoring would still be rampant because it is based on traditional Korean ideas formed long ago in our history.
Koreans have always strived to educate their children to the utmost of their capacity, and this is where the problem lies. The royal dynasties of Koryo and Choson selected government officials through a nationwide examination. The system inspired households even in the deepest reaches of the mountains to drive their children to study.
Look through family registers of any Korean family, and you can find at least one famous ancestor who made it to the royal courts through the examination system or who wrote a famous book. Korea is nearly unique in this regard. Educational fervor is embedded in Koreans' DNA map.
It is for the best that education is an important impetus in an information and knowledge-intensive society. Korea may be the best-positioned country in this sense despite earlier administrations' efforts to dampen educational fervor. It is time that the government focuses on channeling this ardor into the proper channels to spur national development.
The fundamental goal of education is to allow individuals to acquire skills and knowledge and contribute to the country's future. Education acquired by senior-year cramming with the sole purpose of getting into a good university and never used thereafter is total waste of energy.
In order to prevent such a waste of education in the future, it is time to change the national educational curriculum.
The most important education in life is social － how to coexist with other people. The next most important thing is problem-solving skills. Going through life, we are all faced with problems, ranging from hosting a birthday party to founding a company, that must be solved.
Other key points of education include how to enhance one's creativity and learning how to logically express one's opinion.
Every individual possesses different capabilities, different preferences and different orientations that lead every individual down a different path. Thus, it makes no sense that everyone receives a uniform, cookie-cutter education.
So what kind of educational system would be better?
First the teacher must redirect his or her energies from being a knowledge provider to being an advisor. The teacher should not merely pour in knowledge but should concentrate on pouring in how certain knowledge can be acquired.
Simply providing knowledge can be done by a computer. The way a teacher conducts a class should change, employing use of case studies, discussions, debate, indirect experience-gaining methods and research. Some schools here are experimenting with these new methods.
Take for example the "hajanet," a vocational learning center set up by the Seoul Metropolitan Government for students who have dropped out of middle and high schools. The students at the center are overflowing with energy and creativity. They voluntarily form clubs for activities such as cartooning, theater and the Internet.
Teachers are called pandoli, advisers to the students, helping them to assess and solve learning problems.
At Sookmyung Women's University, some lectures are conducted over the Internet.
Handong University in Pohang is another good example. It trains its students to be fluent in computers and English conversation. It concentrates on building a close link between the students and corporations who need the skills the students are learning, so that what they learn in class the students can immediately use in the real world.
The biggest resource that can be used to develop education in Korea is the overflowing national energy and fever for more education.
We Koreans have to use that educational zeal; we should not try to suppress it as we did in the past. We should introduce new education programs which will help our students learn new knowledge necessary for the information age, enhance their moral standards and give them problem-solving skills. Then education will provide the nation with the power to move into the knowledge-based society.
The writer is chairman of Trigem Computer.
by Lee Yong-teh