[EDITORIALS]Boosting science education

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[EDITORIALS]Boosting science education

The government announced that in five years it will invest 270 billion won ($220 million) to improve science education in middle and high schools so that the science classes focus more on research and experimentation. Combined with a plan to provide exceptionally lucrative scholarships to students who enroll in natural science and engineering colleges, the program shows the government's will to encourage students' interest in science in the early stages. The public should also pay attention to popularizing science in our daily life and enhancing the economic and social status of scientists and engineers.

According to a report on scholastic achievement, prepared by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development last year, Korean students were first or second in science and mathematics among students from 32 countries. But the degree of their interest in these subjects, creativity and the ability to develop study methods stood at the lowest level. Through their memory-oriented education, they have a high level of knowledge. But they lack education in research and experiments, which causes them to consider science a difficult subject and lose interest in it. Added to this is the social and economic disadvantage graduates of science and engineering schools encounter in Korean society. The number of students who apply for engineering colleges has fallen yearly, reaching 27 percent of all takers of the 2002 College Scholastic Ability Test.

Remodeling laboratories in 8,000 schools nationwide is only the beginning of improving the environment of science education. Only 10 percent to 20 percent of science teachers are trained in research and experimentation, and 150,000 won to 250,000 won per month per school is not enough to prepare experiments that can satisfy students' interest and curiosity. Laboratory facilities, support staff and education programs should be provided. More than anything else, students with an interest in science should not encounter disadvantages in university entrance. Science activities should be reflected in grades and a method should be devised to reflect scientific experiments on the CSAT.
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