Sunday, February 15, 2009

An Essential Video

If you are considering entering Korea and being a part of the education system here, whether public or private, then please watch this video. Which I originally found out about through Kimchi Icecream.

It highlights the education "culture" and business here and how intense it all is.

Let me remind you that the children, the younger ones, do not really want to be bussed around and going to school at all hours of the day. I would bet even the teens, although may benefit their test scores, probably would rather be doing teen stuff than being stuck inside a classroom.

According to the video Korea's English ability is the worst amongst Asia.

Who is responsible? The students or the teachers?

Which leads me to my next point about this video. That there weren't too many foreigners pictured, I mean Foreign teachers. I think it would have been beneficial to get our opinions and experience listed within the context of English education in Korea.


  1. Hi,

    Let me preface my comment here by saying that I've read a fair bit about Korea online, in books, and have had a lot of exposure to pretty much every level of the public ed system, and am now in the university system . . . so it does give me a unique perspective.

    I'd suggest that the framework in this post needs to be expanded to include the colonial history of Korea where the Japanese took control of the education system in order to shape and attempt to control Koreans; then the Americans came in (they moved into the same building the Japanese had been using for their headquarters--argh), and didn't do much to reform things . . . I think the power apparatus already in place must have seemed convenient to them or something . . . and from conversations I've had with Korean teachers, and from reading I've done, it seems that a lot of the power infrastructure of colonial education, and its curriculum, are still deeply embedded within the current system. Add to the mix the Chaebol and their agenda to keep the status quo in the socio-cultural matrix here so that their children continue to hold power in the future, and this results in 'masses' getting just enough education to slide into the working and lower managerial classes, and you get the system we have today.

    I don't think students or teachers are anywhere near to being responsible for the level of tested English that the country has--I think its the policy makers who in turn influence the teacher training programs, the curriculum developers, and the testing system that shapes and controls everything connected to it: how you study, how you teach, how you learn, how you prepare for tests and do them, how students MUST go to hogwans to be competitive because the public system is stacked against their learning needs, and the testing system is stacked against one kind of learning performance ability--memory and regurgitating the 'one truth' answers the system demands . . . .

    I think the issue is even more complex but it just gets to the point where you throw your hands up in the air and hope that some kind of revolution is brewing in which students AND teachers will put their collective foot down and say, "NO MORE!"

    p.s. An irony also exists here in which the vast majority, if not all, of Canadian professors say that students today can't think for themselves, don't know how to write well, and can't do research and produce new ideas . . . it seems like we have the same set of problems as Korea does in a parallel same but different kind of way . . .

  2. Jason,
    Thank you for that very informative and extensive reply to my post. I am glad you brought up Japan and its relation to the system here. There is so much entangled within this issue.

    But what I think is interesting amongst this is that teachers are usually plunked into the position without really recognizing what they are getting into. So I thought this vid was a good way to kinda "shock and awe" a new teacher into understanding what it is like.


  3. Wow.....pretty intense!

    Who made that video? For what purpose? other words what's their stake in all of it?...or was it like a PBS type organization to disseminate that info..

    Joy did you have any idea about any of this prior to accepting your first Hagwon position?

    It's really a "sick" situation in many ways. Like the tongue surgeries & excessive hours of schooling for youngsters, etc...

    Do you feel you're a part of the "madness" or just providing a better quality of experience w/in the public school where English is a reqd subject.?

    Lots to absorb, as I'm studying the globalization of education, etc....

  4. I had an awareness of this situation before I came to the HAgwon. But I didn't really expect how it knocks you over the head.

    At the public school I feel more normal I guess because it is within a system instead of just cram stuff down their heads.


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