[CON] Enforcement is impossible*How do we regulate advanced learning?
Debates flared over whether a law should be created to regulate advanced learning, where students are exposed to subjects years above their grade level. President-elect Park Geun-hye has spoken out against advanced-learning practices. During the presidential debate, she also made public her plan to legislate a law to bar the practice. The following are the pros and cons.
Parents probably felt relieved when a presidential candidate promised during the campaign that advanced-learning programs will be banned and schools will be prevented from testing students with questions outside the curriculum. I was no exception.
Adjusting the level of difficulty for the college admission test is always a hot issue and essay questions are just too difficult for students. Schools are struggling to deal with the situation while private cram schools become necessary.
Preparing for the next semester is a thing of the past. It has become the norm for students to study material one or two years in advance to feel psychologically stable and remain competitive. Amid this trend, students’ futures are compromised and everyone is deploring the situation.
Students who participated in the advanced-learning programs that require solving a large number of questions lose interest in school education and sleep in the classroom during the day. Teachers are well aware of the situation but they have no way to stop them, and the reason for the existence of schools is now being challenged.
Now that the presidential election is over, we must think cool-headedly beyond the emotional catharsis and understand that establishing a law to regulate advanced learning is not a simple issue. The law’s effectiveness is questionable and there is a large possibility of side effects.
First, the law must have a standard on what will be defined as punishing advanced learning and crack down on it, but that is nearly impossible. Given that advanced learning is an important part of a study, how can we create a standard for punishment? Furthermore, regulating advance learning, which are often conducted at private cram schools, would pose a significant challenge in regards to feasibility. Some may say that students’ right to education is being violated by the law.
Second, it is difficult to accurately pinpoint which exam questions are outside the curriculum. Of the education goals of knowledge, application, analysis, synthesis, comprehension and evaluation, questions to test higher-level abilities such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation can easily be mistaken as those from outside the curriculum.
The ban can also bring about chaos in a system where students move around to find classes that fit their levels.
Before talking about drafting the law, thorough studies on those issues are needed. Instead of introducing bans, providing incentives will be a better way to lessen the side effects.
Teachers and schools that create exams within the curriculum should be provided with incentives, and policies should be adopted to promote such examples.
Private cram schools need to create a gentlemen’s agreement with schools and the society to refrain from excessive advanced learning and instead focus on supplementary lessons to aid understanding of subjects being taught at school.
The fundamental resolution is easing the cutthroat competition in which only degrees from prestigious colleges will lead to well-paying jobs. The social environment, where education background is used as the gold standard to measure a person’s life, is left to be an immobile factor while we make various requests to schools to change.
That is why the problem has remained unresolved despite a 50-year effort. Changing the evaluation system and admission system is not enough to improve the current education system.
We must remember that all attempts by the past governments to address the private education issue have failed. What the government needs to do is create a policy that will expand the employment opportunities for the high school graduates and reduce the income gap between a high school graduate and a college graduate. The more difficult issue is to change the culture in our society. Society should be a place where you can have a great life socially and economically with or without a college degree.
Only that will allow schools to nurture the students’ character and excellence. I believe taking the first step into that fundamental resolution with an eye on the next 10 years is the true solution to the advanced-learning problem.
*The author is a professor of education at Yonsei University.
By Kim Hye-sook