Creative education is the keyword
Just like the water experiment, truth is always clear. The reality is that education in the Republic of Korea is in jeopardy, like a ship on the verge of sinking, with public education fallen, private education overgrown and schools full of violence. Students nap at school then pay attention in the after-school private academies, and the entire nation takes note when CSAT scores are announced.
Every year, more than 20 trillion won ($17.75 billion) are spent on private education, the industry a black hole that sucks in parents’ money. Children are hurt and parents feel hopeless when they cannot afford to pay for educational costs. All they are left with are depleted accounts and a credit line.
The biggest reason that draws students into private supplementary educational institutes is the quality of instruction. The expectations of consumers, that is, students and parents, have become elevated, but the level of the suppliers, the teachers, remain the same. Private teachers and tutors provide quality instruction, so students prefer after-school classes and tutors. Unless this gap is closed, we cannot demand that our students give up private education.
We can begin by enhancing the quality of school instruction to find a balance of supply and demand. Now, civilian experts can be recruited as a fifth grade civil servant without taking the national examination. Similarly, teaching jobs should be open to those who qualify. There are 100,000 college instructors who are irregularly employed, and three in ten doctorate degree holders are jobless. We can absorb this highly educated pool into the public education system. Institutionalizing a system of special appointments and specialty teachers will be especially effective in reducing the cost of extracurricular activities for arts and sports for elementary school students.
Also, competent and popular teachers should be made into stars and be allowed to teach at different schools in rotation. It would boost competition among teachers to motivate them to enhance their teaching skills.
Another tool to help save public education from crisis is “creative education.” In the new administration, “creative economy” has become the keyword, but a creative economy can only be created by creative people. The educational system needs to be reformed to allow students to develop creativity. With students obsessed with college admissions starting from elementary school, they have no time to explore their creativity.
When Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone for Apple in 2007, people around the world raved at the innovative product. Apple changed the global market with a single product and made $40 billion by 2013. Psy stirred the world with a single song, “Gangnam Style,” and created an economic impact of 1 trillion won, equivalent to exporting 50,000 Hyundai Sonatas. Such is the power of creativity.
Creativity is also linked to character. Creativity comes from the attitude to care for and respect differences. When we create an environment where we value differences and don’t get obsessed with superiority, we can reduce school violence.
Korea’s education is thirsty and we can find an oasis in the desert. Creative education is the priming water for education in Korea. We can create a paradigm of buoys to help navigate the sea safely.
IBM surveyed 1,500 corporate heads and public sector leaders in 60 countries about what they thought was the most important leadership quality. Most respondents cited creativity.
* The author is a professor at the Incheon National University.
by Choi Gye-un