The EBS textbook debacleMany worried when the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology suddenly announced in March that starting this year 70 percent of the national college entrance exam would be based on lectures and textbooks run and published by the public Educational Broadcasting Company.
The decision, which bypassed thorough research, public debate or pilot testing, stunned students and parents. Students returning home from prep classes and cram institutions sat in front of computers late into the night, dozing over the EBS online lectures. The ever-resourceful cram schools acted fast, opening up classes and printing texts dedicated to EBS lectures, completely demolishing the education authorities’ intention of reducing students’ dependency on private tutoring.
Students were victimized by the Education Ministry’s reckless and half-baked plan. The decision not only added to students’ workloads, but also wasted their time as they tried to download the EBS programs, which often broke down.
Moreover, the EBS textbooks contained many errors and incorrect answers. If students relied on those books, they would have erred on the exam. The JoongAng Ilbo discovered that student complaints about mistakes in the books reached 2,300 cases, and then the EBS admitted to 556 mistakes.
The EBS lectures and textbooks were worked on by a group of teachers and were not thoroughly inspected. The Education Ministry should be embarrassed for implementing a major exam policy change without establishing an impeccable infrastructure.
The program surely didn’t help students from low-income families because they had to purchase more textbooks. If the idea was to help underprivileged students, the government should have thought of subsidies for the books.
Also, the EBS lectures centered largely on solving multiple-choice questions, and that lack of depth will surely downgrade the quality of public education.
We sincerely hope the government will stop experimenting on students with untried education policies. The EBS program is not the only problem. The government’s plan to increase the role of college admissions officers in selecting students also prompted wide protests and controversy. If authorities are incapable of figuring out respectful and reliable college entrance and education policies, they should at least try to be predictable.