Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Interesting article in the Korean Times

...about the state of English in Korea. Koreans spend more money than any non-native country on English education and yet they are one of the worst countries at English. How is this? Part of it is the unqualified, unenlightened teachers, especially in the public schools, that use the threat of physical violence as their main motivating tool. Another part is that most kids just don't see the relevance of learning English in their daily lives and it's just one of the steps in their endless, daily shuffle from cram school to scram school.

And part of it is culture, which is what I deal with on a daily basis. The whole Confucian shame thing makes it pretty difficult to learn English I think, since students are so scared to make any mistakes in front of their peers. And walking into a class the first day when they don't even know you and they're already sleeping and give you no feedback because the teacher is just there to impart knowledge to students with no interaction at all. And cheating is an entirely acceptable part of Korean culture. Copying homework or on a test, texting answers to friends, it's all good here. Skipping class with fake excuse notes, or on feeble pretenses. Totally acceptable. And very frustrating.

The Korean culture of test-taking plays a large role in this as well. English education in Korea is mostly to pass certain tests: the university entrance exam and then later on, for jobs. So of course they're bad at speaking, and listening and writing if they are only focused on reading for the tests and test-taking strategies.

Anyway, check out the article.

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