[EDITORIALS]Education steps backwardsThe new curriculum for primary and secondary education published by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources increases the number of electives high school students must take from five to seven. The changes might have been intended to alleviate students’ study burdens as schools move toward a five-day school week, but the opposite will come true. The Ministry of Education caved in to pressure from teachers who wanted to safeguard their positions by making their courses compulsory.
The number of core courses for our high school students is already up to 17, which is more than twice that of students in the U.S. or Britain. The Ministry of Education has repeatedly asserted that it would curtail the number of core courses, but the amended curriculum increases compulsory courses to 19.
Students preparing for university entrance exams already deserve our pity. They live with the pressure of exams, but the Ministry of Education now requires universities to weight students’ academic performance more heavily when making admission decisions. The universities themselves emphasize the importance of essays. Thus came the expression, “triangle of death,” meaning students must excel in essays, scholastic aptitude tests and in school performance.
The new requirements will have two other effects: Students will feel even more pressure at school, and private tutoring in the new compulsory course areas will flourish. Is this the intention of a Ministry of Education that bragged it would eradicate private tutoring? There is also the possibility that increasing the number of classes while cutting the time each class meets will hurt academic quality.
The Korean Institute of Curriculum Evaluation opposed the plan to increase core courses because of these problems, although it initially drafted the plan. However, their position has to be changed according to the demands of the Ministry of Education.
Why not shutter the Ministry of Education when it works as a private interest group on behalf of some teachers, rather than of students or parents? Reducing the number of compulsory courses is an international trend. Most countries are increasing opportunities to choose electives, while radically cutting back the number of compulsory courses. Let students decide which classes to take depending on their future plans; give universities autonomy to recruit students on their own terms.
That is the curriculum for the age of diversity and globalization.