Educational overhaulDuring a meeting with Kwak No-hyun, the superintendent of education in Seoul, foreign teachers gave plenty of advice about how the nation can bolster English lessons in school classrooms.
They called for more opportunities to teach students at different paces according to their competency levels. The teachers pointed out that under the current structure, students of all levels of English understanding are taught together, which benefits no one.
These teachers have hit the nail on the head when it comes to the primary problem with our public education system.
Uniformity has been emphasized in elementary, middle and high school education for so long that educators as well as students and parents have grown sensitive to selectiveness.
Grouping students into classes based on aptitude in a particular subject can spur protests from parents who fear that their children will carry a stigma.
It’s no wonder, therefore, that students in Korea today drift off or fail to pay attention in the classroom. Those who are more knowledgeable about a particular subject become bored with material they already understand, while those who aren’t up-to-speed lose interest quickly because the material is over their heads.
Instead of attempting to cater to students with different levels of competency, schools remain rigid and impose standards that prioritize conformity over individuality.
As a result, most students turn to private tutors or cram schools to seek education tailored to their level of understanding.
The sharp rise in the private tutoring business is largely a result of inadequate public education.
If schools offer the right type of education, there will be no need for extra learning outside the classrooms. Private tutoring will more or less become unnecessary if school courses cater to students of different levels.
Private tutors and institutions essentially just offer training on how to raise grades and make fewer mistakes on tests.
Superintendent Kwak said that he hopes to narrow the gap in English competency among the rich and the poor.
This is a step in the right direction. But Kwak cannot accomplish his overall goal without reforming classroom teaching and improving the quality of teachers.
Education should move toward offering more choices according to students’ ability and competency. The role of teachers in all of this is essential. If teachers care more about their students than office politics, there is still hope in the classroom.