[Letter to the editor]Fix unfair education system
Globalization is proceeding rapidly, and English has risen in importance as the world’s common language. With growing demand for English ability, efforts are being redoubled to teach English in public schools as people increasingly turn to private education to get an edge. As everyone can see, English education in Korea remains a problem that will not go away soon.
In a speech on Jan. 1, President Lee Myung-bak pledged to make education reform a priority for his administration. The first project he launched is to reduce private education costs by half. Another project, however, is very controversial: investment in English education in public schools. It’s uncertain whether this will be effective.
The plan calls for teaching English to all students. After this policy was introduced, many questions arose about possible side effects. The government’s policy to strengthen English language education seems to have enriched many private English language schools. Fees for English language lessons rose. More parents, concerned about the new English language policy, sent their children to private schools.
It is now clear that the new administration launched the policy without consulting education experts and leaders.
There are many other issues in education that need to be addressed. Among these is the distortion created by the scramble to pass university entrance examinations to gain admission to good colleges. Students are now studying not to learn, but only to score high on the examinations. The goal of high test scores and relative standing put students through years of intense competition and gruelling stress.
There are many ways to score higher than other students. Many enroll in private cram schools to improve their ability. Instruction in private cram schools gives students an advantage over others.
But if every student gets private instruction, then the public education that everyone gets is useless. Private cram schools need to offer superior instruction to attract more students. Students need to have higher scores to gain admission to university.
Therefore, right now the focus is on strengthening private cram schools, not raising the quality of public schools.
The government’s response is to offer English language lessons to all students, starting in elementary school, to reduce the number of students taking private lessons. Previously, English lessons started only in middle school.
It is simply impossible to improve elementary education without changing the whole system, which emphasizes competition among students.
With current English education concentrated on private instruction, we cannot be sure that the new government education initiative will work properly.
By establishing common standards very clearly, the Korean education system could ensure that everyone starts from the same starting line. Right now, many are at a disadvantage, as they await the start of the new English education system.
As it is, it’s simply unfair when not everyone begins from the same starting line.
Park Eun Young, student, Hanyang University