New law misses the real issues
Having students study materials beyond their proper grade level has many negative effects, including creating pressure to get private lessons, giving unnecessary burdens to students and creating wasteful competition. The intention of the special law, to stop these problems, is desirable, but we have to think first about the various effects that these new regulations will have. We must be careful because this law will undermine the reality of education and the effectiveness of regulations by focusing only on implementing a presidential pledge.
Advanced studying in Korea is more often done at private educational institutes, known as hagwon in Korea, rather than regular schools. Taking into account this reality, the law, which focuses on regulating the public education system, will be ineffective in stopping advanced study. The only restrictions on private institutions are limiting their advertising, so the law could actually boost the hagwon industry. For the law to be effective, modifications are need to implement more realistic regulatory measures on hagwon.
The law is also ambiguous in defining what advanced study is, and there is a real possibility that this could cause a serious debate. It is hard to distinguish between innocent prep study and unnecessarily extensive advanced study and with the new law, the controversy will just get stronger. It can also discourage education. Clear guidelines defining advanced study for each school year and class curriculum are necessary.
The law can also violate the students’ right to study. Once the law is implemented, there will be no way to learn material beyond the scope of each year’s curriculum at schools, even in after-school study programs. That will force excellent students to visit private institutes.
The ban on private tutoring was lifted because the Constitutional Court ruled the measure unconstitutional, excessively violating people’s basic rights, including the right to educate children. It is important to remember this precedent when coming up with policies to improve the quality and methods of teaching.
The law can also discourage teachers and increase discontentment among students. There is a high possibility that teachers will only give tests for basic knowledge in order to avoid the possibility of getting punished. That will discourage the passion of teachers.
Students and parents will also feel uneasy because the outcomes of midterms and final exams will be used as part of the college admissions process. They will rely more on evaluations by private institutes rather than schools. A selection policy is needed to make sure schools’ evaluations of the students will be directly linked to admissions.
In order to root out advanced studying, we need to accurately examine what caused the practice and stop it. With this strong determination to establish a law to root out advanced study, more fundamental policies must be created in order to end elitism, improve the college admission system and normalize unnecessarily difficult curriculums. Coming up with new, innovative policies to restructure education, before regulating the system with a law, is the way to end the practice of overheated advanced study.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff
JoongAng Ilbo, March 1, Page 28
*The author is president of the Korean Federation of Teachers’ Association.
By Ahn Yang-ok