Saturday, January 26, 2008

Education Reform, brought to you by YBM

Best read as a Bill Hicks monologue, but you'll need to include a generous audience, because this shit isn't very funny.

.. So apparently president-elect Lee Myung-bak, otherwise known as the Second Coming (was Roh similarly obsessed over in the weeks following his election??), has a rehab plan for the country's hagwon and overseas schooling dependence. Anyone hear about this? Have you read about this? Well he's going to take action, yes he's a Man Of Action, our LMB.

The key elements of his Action Plan: he's going to 1) see that the the English-Only Policy is enforced; 2) encourage competition among high schools by dropping university admissions regulations; and 3) have "easy" high school subjects, like sciences and maths, delivered in English.

Call me a conspiracist if you like, but hagwon directors themselves might have designed this Plan.

First, "English through English." Half the country's English teachers report that they could deliver lessons wherein the first language of everyone in the room is conspicuously absent. But forget for a moment that this bad pedagogy, that most English teachers KNOW that this is bad pedagogy, and that this is the reason most teachers are resisting the policy (for a superb example of L1 use in an English lesson see this article (subscription).) And forget what will become of teachers unable or unwilling to teach "English through English."

No tarot deck is needed here. The enforcement of this policy will force many families into debt in pursuit of private English-intensive preschooling, and exclude entirely those children whose families cannot afford it. English will soon be taught from first year elementary, and if Korean is not used, children who are not already familiar with English will be so lost that they won't even find the starting line.

Already there are middle school students who do not know even the (latin) alphabet. In 2006, two such students spent a class hiding out in my office - they had been excluded from the teacher's English-Only "demo lesson," because they could not participate in the innovative activities that parents, teachers and ministry officials had come to admire.

Second, high schools and university admissions. Most high schools in the country are privately owned and administered, even if they're heavily funded by provinces. And every city or gu has its elite high schools. The kids who attend these schools expect to get into a good university. As for the kids in other schools .. let's say that the curriculum at these schools is less challenging, and expectations rather lower. President Roh attempted to change this by forcing universities to base admissions partly on students' performance at their particular school. This was to encourage bright students to attend lower-perfoming high schools and thus help raise their school's academic profile.

Allowing universities complete freedom in admissions will allow them to select from high schools of their choosing. Which will in turn force middle school students into hagwons, and parents further into debt, to better kids' chances of getting into choice high schools. Indeed, the KTU warns that universities may soon be looking at students' middle school records as well, which will force more elementary students into hagwons, etc.

Third, English-medium instruction in high schools. LMB wants high schools delivering "easy" subjects like maths and sciences in English by 2010. These are the easy subjects?! Who the fuck does the transition team pretend to be kidding? "Easy" subjects, for second language use, are art, physical education, and later, geography (see this research article, sub required). No doubt hagwons are already hanging "Learn Science English Here!!!" banners.

Now if our messiah were actually serious about education reform, he'd set up a nation-wide fully-subsidized preschool system, start funding universities so that exlusion from the elite schools does not doom young people to drudgery, address regional imbalances in education funding, wrest control of secondary schools from petty oligarchs, and help create learning communities that foster social, moral, and intellectual development rather than enforce regimens of testing, ranking and standardization.

.. And since teachers are abandoning the KTU, the organization that is best placed to challenge Lee and his education-as-business model, soon we'll all be "service providers," encouraging failing kids to absent themselves from standardized tests so that we can receive our pay incentives, and our schools their funding.

I hope our uniforms are tasteful.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

So THAT's how the Chosun Ilbo comes up with editorials!

with ...

The Korean Teachers Union's paroxysms have been getting a lot of undeserved attention recently. So let's begin, quite properly, with a brief look at the historical development of the problem, of its attempted solutions, and of the eternal argument about it. Having endured countless hours of listening to the Korean Teachers Union's paltry, odious gibber, I can say with confidence that after hearing about its politically incorrect attempts to divert our attention from serious issues, I was saddened. I was saddened that it has lowered itself to this level.

In the past, it was perfectly clear to everyone with insight and without malice that the Korean Teachers Union's snow jobs are tinctured with imperialism. Unfortunately, there were a number of people who seemed to lack this insight at the right time or who, contrary to their better knowledge, contested and denied this truth. The objection may still be raised that animalism is a viable and vital objective for our nation's educational institutions. At first glance this sounds almost believable yet the following must be borne in mind: I want to make this clear so that those who do not understand deeper messages embedded within sarcastic irony -- and you know who I'm referring to -- can process my point. The Korean Teachers Union says that it's perfectly safe to drink and drive. That is the most despicable lie I have ever heard in my entire life. You may be wondering why putrid tricksters latch onto the Korean Teachers Union's politics. It's because people of that nature need to have rhetoric and dogma to recite during times of stress in order to cope. That's also why a colleague recently informed me that a bunch of intellectually challenged fault-finders and others in the Korean Teachers Union's amen corner are about to pooh-pooh the concerns of others. I have no reason to doubt that story because were he alive today, Hideki Tojo would be the Korean Teachers Union's most trustworthy ally. I can see Tojo joining forces with the Korean Teachers Union to help it do everything possible to keep abominable busybodies lewd and violent.

Every time the Korean Teachers Union tells its habitu├ęs that superstition is no less credible than proven scientific principles, their eyes roll into the backs of their heads as they become mindless receptacles of unsubstantiated information, which they accept without question. Speaking of cuckoo bloodsuckers, I have a plan to make an impartial and well-informed evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of the Korean Teachers Union's convictions. I call this plan "Operation help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world". (Granted, I need a shorter, catchier name but that one will do for now.) My plan's underlying motif is that if we are to redefine in practical terms the immutable ideals that have guided us from the beginning, then we must be guided by a healthy and progressive ideology, not by the benighted and intransigent ideologies that the Korean Teachers Union promotes. For those of us who make our living trying to speak up and speak out against the Korean Teachers Union, it is important to consider that when it says that two wrongs make a right, that's just a load of spucatum tauri. The Korean Teachers Union's companions get a thrill out of protesting. They have no idea what causes they're fighting for or against. For them, going down to the local protest, carrying a sign, hanging out with the Korean Teachers Union, and meeting some other grotty barrators is merely a social event. They're not even aware that the Korean Teachers Union's rejoinders are like a Hydra. They continually acquire new heads and new strength. The only way to stunt their growth is to launch an all-out ideological attack against the forces of materialism. The only way to destroy its Hydra entirely is to provide more people with the knowledge that the impact of the Korean Teachers Union's choleric fairy tales is exactly that predicted by the Book of Revelation. Evil will preside over the land. Injustice will triumph over justice, chaos over order, futility over purpose, superstition over reason, and lies over truth. Only when humanity experiences this Hell on Earth will it fully appreciate that if we look beyond the Korean Teachers Union's delusions of grandeur, we see that I recently heard it tell a bunch of people that newspapers should report only on items it agrees with. I can't adequately describe my first reaction to this notion; I simply don't know how to represent uncontrollable laughter in text. Finally, any mistakes in this letter are strictly my fault. But if you find any factual error or have more updated information on the subject of the Korean Teachers Union, the Korean Teachers Union-inspired versions of mysticism, etc., please tell me so I can write an even stronger letter next time.