Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On Obama's Love of South Korea's Education

Here, here, and here you can read about Obama praising South Korea's Education system.  South Koreans, who normally have an extremely high amount of national pride, love these articles.  Obama has called for the U.S. to emulate the South Korean educational system.

Hold on one sec.  This is the same educational system that I work in?  To be honest, I don't know exactly what parts of the South Korean system Obama wants the U.S. to emulate, but here are some thoughts on why that is a bad idea.

1)  Creativity (or a lack thereof)

"Why" is kryptonite for most Korean kids.  Almost the entirety of the testing system in Korean is focused on multiple choice answers.  The rote memorization of facts are the sole way in which students are supposed to better themselves.  There is no space for kids with poorer memories.  There is no space for kids to discover new answers for themselves.  With the exception of my conversation class, almost all classes are centered almost exclusively on the teachers.  The teachers are the sole source of useful information.  Even when the Korean English teachers make a writing question for the exam, they constantly ask me to make sure that the number of possible answers are as limited as possible.  When there are more than about five possible answers, they do their best to limit those possibilities.

2)  Uniformity

Everyone should be treated equally.  This means that every child should go to all the same classes as his peers.  This means that little Min-ho and Min-ji will be in the same leveled classes and they will continue to graduate together.  This is despite the fact that Min-ho may be mentally handicapped and may need a little more time with the material before he moves on to the next grade.  Or even if Min-ji learned all this material in her after school program a year ago, she should still sit in her chair like a good little student until the next year comes and all the rest of her classmates move on to the next grade with her.

3)  Corruption

Korean teachers routinely give bribes to principals and vice-principals for a variety of favors.  These bribes can run up to about $1000 in value.

4)  Job Performance Reviews

Job performance reviews can, of course, be affected by the bribes mentioned above.  The job performance reviews, though, have almost no meaning.  Jobs for Korean teachers are known to be almost impossible to lose.  This goes for the most incompetent managers as well.  Vice-principals can be the bane of many a school.  When asked how an incompetent or just down right evil vice-principal can be gotten rid of, Korean teachers have told me they have to keep giving him good evaluations.  Hopefully, he will be promoted to principal because he can not be demoted to a regular teacher or be fired.

5)  Sports/Leisure

I recently watched a middle school basketball round-robin tournament.  Of the 1224 students in my school, I can count on one hand the number of boys and girls that could play against a middle school team in the U.S. This is mostly to do with the fact that Korean kids have very little leisure time.  They have to study for 7 hours at school, 3 or 4 more hours at an after school program, and then finish any homework or whatever at night.  They have no activities outside of school except for the occasional Starcraft binge that they play at 2 to 3 in the morning.

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