What’s the hurry?Discussions on the revision of elementary, middle and high school curriculums have run into trouble. The Education Ministry’s plan to increase the current five mandatory subject groups to seven, including art and physical education, was de facto scrapped due to the intense criticism against greater burdens on students.
Instead, the ministry said it would choose one of two options: one is to maintain the current curriculum with five subject groups as it was, which are humanities and social studies; science and techniques; art and physical education; foreign languages; and general studies. Another option is to separate art and physical education into two distinct groups.
It is appropriate that the ministry’s original plan was withdrawn when we consider the global trend toward alleviating excessive workloads on students. In terms of providing a whole education, it may be regrettable not to include fine art, music or physical education as mandatory subjects. However, we cannot force parents to send their children to a private institute for those subjects. They are already paying too much tuition to cram schools.
Still, these two options have some problems. First, they do not include any ideas to strengthen mathematics and science education, which would be a foundation for the country’s competitiveness. New students at college science or engineering departments scored on average 28 out of 100 on a mathematics test that is middle and high school level. Freshmen at Seoul National University’s college of engineering have to take private mathematics lessons from their seniors.
The latter option is not satisfactory either. It is not necessary to treat physical education as an independent mandatory subject group. Physical fitness is not as important as math ability when it comes to college education.
The process by which the education ministry has made curriculum decisions has also been problematic. The ministry cannot properly review a plan if it makes decisions in a closed committee meeting or holds a public hearing with limited participants.
It is difficult to understand why the ministry wants to finalize the revision by the end of this month. This is not a matter to be hurriedly decided. Education is a subject that should be planned with a 100-year vision. Although it may take time, the ministry should collect ideas and find the most efficient one. Strengthening students’ academic ability and improving the country’s future should be put before public officials’ convenience or teachers’ job security.