“The most common critique of English education is that you can’t even say a sentence right, despite having studied English at school for 10 years. But is it really a success if you can say some basic sentences by the time you graduate from high school?”
These are quotes from Kim Seunghyeun, an English teacher who teaches at a high school, as interviewed by?Kyunghyang Newspaper. Kim says?that the reality of English education in Korea is just like a horse race with no goals.
There is no clear consensus and no strategy about why students have to study and by how much they need to achieve. This year, Kim has been leading 36 discussions and lectures on English education in Korea as a policy director for an education civic group and vice president of a forum on Korea’s private English education industry.
Kim indicated, “We have to have different strategies from the ones in the U.K. and U.S. where they use English as their main language, and also in the ?Philippines and India where they use it as their second language. We are just being dragged along by the theory of the private education market that we would speak English as well as native English speakers if we focus early and a lot on English education.”, which means that it would be ‘low-cost/high-efficiency education’ in the long run, if we help students by using English fairy tales and books rather than making them memorize their school books.
He took an example of the ‘practical language strategy’ from the Lee Myungbak government as a representative ‘policy failure’.
“It was their policy to practice practical English by increasing English classes and making an hour of English class with a native English speaker teacher or a full conversation teacher, which did not reflect reality. It would only amount to 50 pages in total, if you put all the lessons together from an English book that students would study with for a year. Lessons in middle school books show a steep level increase and SAT English has lessons at the level of Time magazine. Also, parents cannot completely rely on public schools just because their kids have one more hour of English class in school. The announcement from the government that they are going to handle the whole English education in schools was very irresponsible.”
Kim said, “The government is actually not doing anything what they have to do.” Which is that the government has to make schools to show that there is no need to start learning English at such young ages and they have to have more strict restrictions on private education.
Kim said, “In countries like Korea, where people learn English as a foreign language, motivation and atmosphere is much more important than when they start having English education. Schools are discouraging students rather than helping those who don’t have early childhood learning. This is why parents seek for their children to have private education.” The examples of some problems are in private elementary schools where they teach English right when kids start school and lead the kids to having the pressure of early childhood learning with level tests, and also schools where they hold English competitions that are way beyond the curriculum and they hand out difficult tests. Some public schools even skip basic things, as if they are assuming that students are probably already learning it from hagwons.
Kim also said, “President Park said that she is going to revive public education by making the Public Education Normalization Promotion Act, so I will wait and see how it goes. The government has been doing nothing about the private English education problem with teaching preschoolers, which is getting worse.”