[Campus commentary]Nurturing creativityNowadays, class participation is considered one of the main factors in grading students. In reality, not many students participate in our classrooms. No one can deny that speaking in public is a daunting task for many, but it is still problematic that a majority of students seldom make their voices heard during class.
I, myself, have not been an enthusiastic participant in class discussions. I guess many Korean university students also find it uncomfortable to express their opinions in class. Thus, I experienced a sort of culture shock when I first took a course offered in English with a number of students from abroad. They constantly raised their hands to ask questions or suggest ideas. Sometimes their words were not well-organized, but they seemed very confident in expressing themselves. Although some students caused problems as they interrupted the flow of the lecture with unnecessary questions, their confident attitudes caught my attention ? why do many Korean students lack such confidence? I think the answer lies in both the students themselves and the prevailing practices in Korean education.
When we look back on our days in elementary school, we recall classes full of creative questions and answers. Yet, as we grew older, we spoke less in school, particularly during middle school and high school.
This is because of a social norm: Do as others do, or you’ll be left out. Students often criticize those who like to express their ideas, because they consider such behavior to be showing off. Concerned about what others will think of them, students dare not interrupt a lecture to ask a question or contribute a thought.
In addition, many Korean students are conditioned to not having their own opinions. Instead, they are taught to find the “correct” answers, and to not speak in class until they have them. Usually, those correct answers are given in textbooks, so they have no need to think independently.
This problem in Korean education ? this lack of creativity ? has been pointed out frequently. That problem prevents Korean students from developing creative perspectives, as I have observed in my work as a student reporter.
I have interviewed many students. When asked for their opinion on certain issues, they typically parrot views found in newspapers or TV ? even when they are asked for personal impressions about a stage play. As students seek to echo views that are “safe,” their creativity and ability to think independently are bound to dwindle.
Universities should be a safe haven of infinite freedom for students to express, try out, and elaborate on ideas, especially their own. Korean society has to solve the problem of social pressures to be “normal” and education as merely transferring conventional ideas. Our schools need to prepare us for an active exchange of diverse opinions.
*The writer is a reporter of the Yonsei Annals news magazine at Yonsei University.
By Kim Da-eun