Push to promote EBS backfires

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Push to promote EBS backfires

A change to the university entrance exam process that lays emphasis on material from the state-run educational broadcaster is raising a ruckus within Korea’s private education sector.

And the shift, which was meant to lessen students’ dependence on hagwon instead has them turning back to the private education institutes for more help.

Last month, the Ministry of Education announced that as of this year, 70 percent or more of the questions on the yearly College Scholastic Aptitude Test will come from lectures aired by the Education Broadcasting System. Previously, only around 30 percent of the questions came from EBS high school lectures, which are offered on TV, radio and the Internet.

The change was part of the Lee Myung-bak administration’s drive to curb reliance on hagwon, which costs the average Korean family more than 15 percent of their income - a total of almost 21.6 trillion won ($19.4 billion) last year, according to government data.

But students are complaining that there are too many EBS broadcasts and related study books to keep up with, and it’s become just another scholastic load. They say they need the hagwon to summarize the texts.

“There are over 10 study books for the Korean language subject alone, and I didn’t know how to deal with it,” said Hong Gyeong-tek, 20, who is planning to retake the CSAT this year.

Hong looked around for help and last month found a hagwon lecturer in the southern Seoul area who offered lessons summarizing the EBS texts.

The class became popular fast. Even though the lectures started at 7 a.m., more than 70 students enrolled. However, only a week after they began, the classes came to a halt. The lecturer told the students EBS was cracking down on copyright infringement, and he would have to close his doors and refund their money.

According to the Culture Ministry, the contents of an EBS lecture may be written on a blackboard or related orally, but copying and distributing texts violates copyright laws.

EBS is pushing for the even tighter regulations. Kwak Duok-hoon, the broadcaster’s head, said, “Even if the students buy the EBS study books themselves and bring them into a hagwon class which teaches EBS lectures, the teacher will photocopy excerpts from the book in order to teach.”

“The EBS texts, which aim to reduce dependence on private education, must not seep through to the private education sector again,” said an EBS official.

When one lecturer posted free summaries of the EBS texts on an online cafe, EBS officially asked him to take them down, saying the posts violated copyright laws. Students quickly shot back that the lecturer was only trying to help them.

“The [online] summary was extremely helpful in picking content that will most likely appear in the university entrance exam,” said Lee Yeong-min, a high school senior.

Other students have posted complaints on the EBS home page. One read, “EBS doesn’t have the right to attack a lecturer [who provides summary versions of EBS texts] and it should help them help the students.”

EBS has announced that it will publish its own book summarizing all of its other study books. But Lee Hyeong-ju, a high school senior, is not impressed. “I have so many EBS texts to buy already and if a summary text comes out, it is just one more book I have to buy,” he complained.

By Kim Min-sang [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]
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