Not serving the nation’s studentsAlthough educators will not publicly admit it, many students in Korea go to schools to sleep. Parents would be deluding themselves if they cannot imagine their child dozing off during class. Many Koreans who have studied abroad have been surprised to find that few students, if any, fall asleep during class. They may not be concentrating, but at least they do not outright lay their heads on their desks. Few teachers would choose to ignore them by thinking they are better off sleeping. A normal teacher would ask if there was something wrong.
There may be many reasons why Korean students cannot stay awake during class. They may be bored by the tedious lecture or lack of sleep because of the time they spent attending private academies. But it is a serious problem if students opt to sleep if they cannot keep up with their classes. Public education has the duty to provide basic education to every student.
A recent academic standard evaluation released by the Education Ministry can explain why so many students sleep in class. Among third year middle school students, 11.1 percent failed to meet the basic mathematical standard, up from 7.1 percent a year ago. The deficiency share in English skills rose to 5.3 percent, from 3.2 percent. The findings suggest there are students in each class that lack basic math and English skills. These students can hardly be expected to keep up in class.
Many of those underperforming students come from a family environment that cannot provide enough support. Students can give up on their studies if their performance stays neglected amid ignorance or indifference from parents or guardians. Poverty can be handed down and inequalities can grow, contrary to the liberal government’s focus on equality.
Public education must do its job so that poverty and family circumstances do not hamper schooling and strip opportunities from young people. The nation is neglecting its responsibility if students do not get proper schooling because they could not keep up. The Constitution stipulates that every citizen has the same right to receive education according to their capacity.
There must be a more accurate assessment to come up with suitable policy. The latest finding was based on an evaluation of 3 percent of students nationwide.
Progressive education superintendents may resist broad aptitude evaluation in protest to scoring schools. But that is like refusing a medical checkup for fear of learning about an illness.
Educators have a bigger responsibility to help students who fall behind, not those who keep ahead. They must pay attention to each student so that they do not give up. Schooling based on performance could also be an idea. Educators and schools must ask themselves who the class exists for.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 2, Page 30
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