[Letters] Problems with English education in Korea

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[Letters] Problems with English education in Korea

These days, many Koreans are eager to learn English as a precondition for pursuing a good life. As its importance increases, I see the need to investigate a plethora of problems regarding English education in Korea.

First, Korean parents tend to be morbidly obsessed with teaching their kids English thereby ruining the children’s normal path of development. According to a newspaper article released several years ago, a mother made their kids go through a surgery that shortens the length of the tongue, which was intended to improve the facility of English pronunciation. If English education goes too far, I think we should take strong actions to eradicate the truly farfetched practice.

Second, the problem is said to lie in the fact that most of Koreans seek unrealistic perfection. This leads them to set too high a standard when it comes to learning English. It’s very common for Korean learners of English to compare themselves to CNN anchors. It doesn’t make sense at all. People are required to lower their standards to more feasible and achievable ones. Also, they need to realize that the main purpose of learning English is not to be a native speaker but to be able to communicate with foreign people with different linguistic backgrounds.

Third, teaching English is not an art but a science, which means teachers should be well trained. Despite the scientific nature of teaching, many English teaching practitioners are still sticking to old-fashioned methods such as the Grammar-Translation Method (GTM).

Fourth, the presence of the College Scholastic Aptitude Test (CSAT) has a detrimental effect on the curriculum of English in public schools. Teachers channel all their resources into teaching to the test without regard for the informed approach to teaching. While it’s a very practical option from a teacher’s perspective, it keeps teachers from being more creative and effective.

Lastly, from a socioeconomic perspective, the English divide in Korea needs attention from many specialists considering its visible influence on classroom teaching. A lot of research findings have shown that rich kids are better at English than poor kids. Rich kids with a better command of English are likely to be more successful both in school and outside of school. It forms a vicious cycle and serves as a factor exacerbating social inequality.

To sum up the argument, there are many perceived problems inherent in English education in Korea. For the time being, these will exist to plague Korean people as well as teachers.

Kim Joon-koo, English Teacher, Dongdaemun Middle School

*Letters and commentaries for publication should be addressed “Letters to the Editor.” E-mailed letters should be sent to eopinion@joongang.co.kr.
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