[LETTERS to the editor]Let teachers teach

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[LETTERS to the editor]Let teachers teach

An Oct. 2 editorial lays much blame for education failures in Korea on the shoulders of underachieving teachers.

As in any profession, there are cheats, impostors and varying levels of ineptitude. There is a place for teacher’s unions to protect their members from abuse just as there is a need for the government to ensure that those who ought not to teach are weeded out. It is apparent from the editorial that it is easier to put the blame on teachers than to fix the system.

I have taught public school teachers in Korea over several years at intensive training camps sponsored by the Ministry of Education. From observation I can conclude that the vast majority of teachers entering these camps are excellent. They have passion, desire, solid English skills and brilliant ideas to inspire their students.

The biggest problem is the restraint placed on teachers by the boards of education and authorities in individual schools. The push to complete a textbook by semester’s end, regardless of student language acquisition; the artificial standardization of education; class size; a reluctance to deviate from tradition; and the amount of time required to fulfill administrative responsibilities are just a few of the problems facing the teachers.

Most of the Korean teachers I have talked with reiterate time and again, “ I wish I was released to teach English.”

“Form follows function” as far as English is concerned. English must be functional. Teachers must be allowed to use games, role-playing, videos, discussion or whatever method they, as professionals, believe is necessary. Unfortunately, there is not enough time to do this because in Korea, students must fit the form/program. Teachers are not evaluated on how well the students acquire the language; they are measured based on students fitting into a program. Naturally, teachers will follow the rules set forth by the textbook, syllabus and education authority expectations.

Blaming teachers for the education failure in Korea is merely looking for a scapegoat for what is fundamentally a systemic problem.

Perhaps the day will come when what is best for students will supersede what is best for the program and teachers will be released to do what they do best.

David Woelke,

Youngsan University
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