Textbook ideas by the president generate debates

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Textbook ideas by the president generate debates

Since President Park Geun-hye said that the country should publish “kind” textbooks that students can basically understand without consulting other reference books and which can be used to study for exams including the college scholastic ability test (CSAT) in a cabinet meeting Tuesday, improving textbook content became an important issue in education circles.

In the cabinet meeting, President Park said that the country’s elementary, middle and high schools should never have tests with questions that are not covered in the textbooks. She used the word “never” twice.

“If schools never put questions on exams that deal with content that is not included in textbooks, the rest of the problems that students and parents currently have will be resolved,” she said.

“In order to bring this idea into the real world, content in the textbooks must be detailed information,” she continued. “Because current textbooks only provide simple definitions and principles of a subject, they are hard to understand without looking at reference books.”

Producing textbooks that prevent students from needing to buy additional reference books was one of Park’s education pledges in December’s presidential election campaign.

“The exams she mentioned include not only midterms and final exams but also the CSAT exam,” a spokesman of the Blue House said. “If the government promises that all questions on exams will come out of textbooks, the promise should be kept in order to operate the education policies properly.”

In order to fulfill Park’s pledge, the Ministry of Education will develop a plan for revising textbooks by the end of next February. About 4.6 billion won ($4.15 million) will be spent revising textbook in the next five years.

But there are varying opinions and discussions of Park’s prescription.

“Compared to every other reference book, mathematics textbooks have the best concept descriptions,” said mathematics professor Park Kyung-mi from Hongik University.

Cho Young-hye, a Korean teacher at the Seoul Global High School, said, “In the past, most of the country’s textbooks only provided simple concepts so students could just study and memorize, but many textbooks currently provide more details and questions that make students think about a concept and do experimental work.”

“Textbooks are an educational tool that teachers and students study together by utilizing diverse types of learning materials with the purpose of improving learning abilities,” said Yoon Hye-jung, an English teacher from Duksoo High School. “The government should consider whether textbooks should be made materials that students can study by themselves.”

“It is true that students need to buy reference books because the concepts and explanations of some content are not good enough,” said Lee Young-deok, chairman of the Daesung Academic Ability Development Research Institute. Lee added that the president’s idea could save parents money.

“The government should know that many parents spend hundreds of thousands of won in purchasing reference books,” Lee Gyeong-ja, head of a civic group for improving public education, said. “We welcome the idea.”

Some said the government changes its education policies too often.

“The government already said about 70 percent of this year’s CSAT exam will come from materials produced by EBS [the Education Broadcasting System] and now they are talking about textbooks,” said Noh Byung-wook, a biology teacher from Mokpo Girls’ High School said. “Due to the policy, textbooks are useless in schools now.”

By Shin Yong-ho, Sung Si-yoon [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

By Shin Yong-ho, Sung Si-yoon
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