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.

1 comment:

sam59527 said...