[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]English and simple math

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[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]English and simple math

I must agree with Kim Yae-eun’s letter (“Foreign teachers needed,” July 6). The students in Korea do not need more grammar education. They have had enough to last a lifetime. What they need is to know how to use language freely and practically.
But having more foreign teachers will not solve the problem either. I have worked in the public education system in Korea. I was a conversation teacher at a middle school. At the end of my contract, the Ministry of Education asked for a report on why the students were having such a difficult time speaking English, since they had a grammar teacher and a native speaker. The answer: simple mathematics.
A typical English course involved two 50-minute classes per week, divided between the Korean teacher and myself. On a good day, I had about 20 minutes of conversation per class. The average number of students per class was about 54; 20 minutes divided by 54 students equals 34 seconds per student. If I did not speak, and students were allowed no time to hesitate or think, each student might get one minute of actual speaking in a week.
Slamming more grammar into them is a poor excuse for English teaching. Major changes are required in the education system. Not only do textbooks need to be reconsidered, but teachers’ roles, assessment patterns and administrative strategies need to be altered.

by David Woelke
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