Ban needed to improve schools
Most of the media is skeptical about its effectiveness, saying that the law will not be able to root out the practice of schools teaching materials more advanced than what they are supposed to for each age group. They also ask why is it necessary to bar students from studying beyond their year’s curriculum and to hold back students’ abilities. Ironically, those criticisms are directly linked to the fundamental reason behind this law.
Contrary to what the media has reported, this law is not about prohibiting advanced studying - it is about removing the causes of advanced studying.
For example, the law will bar high schools from giving entrance tests to middle school graduates using high school materials. It is also intended to stop universities from giving admissions tests that use university materials.
On an analysis of the exams of 15 major universities’ science departments in 2013, 37.4 percent of the questions were from the university curriculums.
The law is also intended to stop schools from testing students on materials that are from higher grades and to bar some private elementary schools from giving English-heavy education. It is also intended to stop some high schools teaching mathematics at unusually high levels.
The law cannot completely root out all advanced studying, but it can weaken the trend significantly. According to a poll by the Korea Society Opinion Institute in April 2013, 38.1 percent of respondents said that students engage in advanced study because the test questions for high schools and university admission exams also draw on materials that are more advanced than the official curriculum. Another 12 percent said they do so because schools teach too fast while 11.2 percent said mid-term and final exams at schools use advanced materials.
That poll shows how the new law can help resolve the causes of advanced studying.
The issues associated with college admissions, extensive mathematics education, competition among parents and students, and private institutes’ marketing all fuel uneasiness and are matters this law addresses.
Furthermore, stopping advanced studying will not lower students’ abilities. In fact, encouraging advanced studying is what lowers scholastic abilities. High school students who received advanced lessons in math during elementary and middle schools are the evidence, as most of them fell behind in the lessons. As we can see, unnecessarily heated advanced study only lowers performance. Advanced studying can weaken the students’ ability to concentrate and understand, forcing them to rely heavily on memorization, thus lowering their abilities.
Advanced study not only harms the students who participate, it also lowers teaching quality and hurts the students who do not engage in advanced study. Parents also have to face the burden of ineffective private lessons. This law, therefore, is a must to normalize public education by stopping wrongful education practices.
Translation by Korea JoongAng Daily staff
JoongAng Ilbo, March 1, Page 28
*The author is vice president of the Policy Institute at the World Without Worries About Private Education.
By Ahn Sang-jin