[Letter to the editor]The English education system is broken
English education in Korea: What an utter failure. Why do I use such a scornful tone? Because people spend six-plus years of their elementary and secondary education studying English. It’s a huge waste of time for millions of children who are held hostage to a broken system. The inefficiencies found in the workplace are also found in the English education system. It’s neither productive nor effective. What do we have to do? I say we tear down the system and rebuild it with fresh, new ideas. Changing it little by little just won’t do. Retraining Korean-born English teachers just won’t do. English isn’t about test scores. Somewhere along the way, people lost their way and became hell-bent on scoring well on English tests but for what ends? A better job? That’s another glaring inefficiency in the labor market, because companies are hiring workers who have good English test scores but can’t speak English properly. Why does tiny Singapore attract so many foreign companies? Is Chinese a global language? It’s time to refocus. We’re not catching up to anyone. China and India are steaming ahead of us. Do we deliver the best English education in Asia? Do we have the best education system in the world for that matter? No. So shouldn’t we do something about it? Yes. The only way to level the playing field is to bring ourselves up to the global level. If we don’t have a world-class education system, then forget about building a world-class economy.
I’m not pessimistic but I don’t see any new engines of growth in Korea’s horizon. Maybe our rigid, cram school-oriented education system isn’t producing the kind of workers our economy needs. It’s sad to see smart people doing nothing when they know the system isn’t working. Perhaps the bureaucrats and politicians are to blame. Maybe it’s not an important issue to society. Surely politicians would be interested if there was public outrage against the English education system. Maybe the tipping point hasn’t been crossed yet. In any case, we are confining our nation’s children to a system that lies broken.
Eric Park, Seoul