A growing number of local schools are embracing performance-based class systems, whereby students with the same ability levels are put in the same class.
The government’s decision on April 15 is now enabling schools to roll out this level-based class system, in English, mathematics and other subjects.
According to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, two middle schools and 10 high schools have recently started level-based classes in Korean literature, a first in the country. Close to a dozen elementary schools have also implemented the system.
The methods used to categorize students have evolved. In the past, many schools simply divided students into two groups, “high,” and “low.” The categories have now expanded to “high,” “middle-high,” “middle-low” and “low.”
It is an encouraging sign that indicates local public schools are increasingly trying to offer a more customized education service based on their students’ performance.
But we still have a long way to go, given that only a handful of schools are offering such advanced services. There are 578 elementary schools, 371 middle schools and 302 high schools across the country.
The latest development, albeit very encouraging, is far from enough. All schools should embrace level-based teaching programs, which are a significant part of the education reform needed by local schools.
This is the only way we can salvage the languishing education system. An overhaul of the public school system is one of the most urgent tasks to be completed in order to make the nation more competitive.
Governments everywhere recognize this fact. That is why even U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stepped in to address the failure of the public education system as one of the biggest crises faced by the United States.
She highlighted that the U.S. will not excel in the international economy without dramatic reform of its education system. The same applies to South Korea.
And the very first step toward achieving the goal will be the expansion of the level-based class system, customized for the students’ performance and their level of understanding. Education authorities and teachers should waste no time in developing a wider range of teaching programs for students at different levels.
As Rice said, we cannot afford to leave children talented enough to win the Nobel Prize trapped in low-quality education.