Saturday, April 07, 2007

Three Steps to Fixing English Education in Korea

I just read this article about English education in S. Korea. President Roh is again emphasizing the importance of English. He's repeating the goal of having a native English speaker in every middle school by 2010.

Frequent readers, and those who know me here in Korea know how critical I am about the English education system here. Just importing more of us foreigners isn't going to be very helpful. The guys up top need to make some fundamental changes to the way English education is carried out here. The problems with English education are not number problems; more money and more native teachers will not fix the issues.

First, it is important to emphasize conversational English. When I asked my middle school students the meaning of the word "meant" they all shouted "PP!" PP stands for "past participle." However, not one of them could use it in a sentence! Who cares if you know the exact grammatical function of a word if you can't use it in a sentence. Is the goal of English education here to be able to diagram a sentence or to communicate?

Second, native speakers need to be included in the curriculum. One of the greatest frustrations that I've felt is that I have no standards or curriculum to base my lessons upon. I do my best to chart a course to improve the English of my students. However, the random, non-integrated lessons of native speakers in general does little to improve the nation's language proficiency.

Third, native speakers need to be treated better. In Korea, most native English teachers are treated like a commodity. They are imported in by the hundreds, given little guidance, face numerous hassles, and are given little consideration for the hardships of living as foreigners. If Korea wants to gain quality foreign teachers to come and to stay for several years they need to provide better support for these teachers.

In general, South Korea has a reputation among the ESL teachers community as having the best pay, lowest qualifications for teachers, and either really good or really bad working conditions. Korea has a long way to go to

1 comment:

  1. hi josh.
    i totally agree with you. i've had this conversation a million times since arriving in korea. these problems are the reason i am not opting to stay in korea. along with other reasons, but they are partly why. i have definitely had more than my share of problems since arriving in korea, and most of them could have been avoided if the koreans paid a little more attention to things. it's not easy coming here and staying here as a waegook. i actually find most koreans to be quite xenophobic and anti-english - this does not make things easier, especially when it's the people that you work for/with. sorry for the rambling... i really just wanted to say i agree with you...take care!


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