Tag Archives: Korea

New OECD report leads to questions about educational innovation

While the OECD has released a number of reports this year, their most recent report addresses the measurement of educational innovation at the classroom and school levels. In this report, the OECD looked at “innovations” in education improvement strategy and ranked 19 countries accordingly. The report acknowledges that while the private sector has established innovation indicators derived from research and development (R&D) statistics and innovation surveys, the measurement of innovation and its effectiveness in the public sector is still in its infancy. Creating such measurements might be more difficult, as the report states that “cultural values, social policies and political goals can lead to differing prioritization of these different objectives across countries.” Innovation indicators will need to be linked to specific objectives, such as learning outcomes, if they are to be better understood.

Denmark came in first place, followed by Indonesia, Korea and the Netherlands. While I could not easily find news reports that focused on the high ranking of Korea, and the sole report I found on the Netherlands referred to parental concerns over a lack of educational innovation, multiple sources published reports that pointed to the near-bottom ranking of the US. Yet, even with the report citing a ‘dearth’ of innovation in the US, EdWeek has a feature article on the ways in which school principals in the US are increasingly acting like entrepreneurs and innovators in business.

Interestingly, as Pasi Sahlberg pointed out in his recent article in The Washington Post, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Finland—all high performing countries—have sought out innovative ideas for education from the United States, where many such ideas are largely ignored by the country’s education reformers. So, not only is educational innovation difficult to measure for the ways in which the concept of innovation might be country-specific, as the OECD explained, it might also prove difficult to measure due to the ways in which innovative ideas can travel, as countries share and borrow ideas from one another. In his brief response to Sahlberg’s article, Howard Gardner pointed out that innovative ideas have a history of being co-opted, borrowed, and misunderstood. Further, he notes that it is a mistake to attribute these ideas to sole individuals, such as himself–for he was inspired by other scholars, and all scholars are influenced by the freedom or constrictions of the conditions in which they work. To that point, a recent study of Norwegian teachers, which aimed to study those conditions in which “newness is created,” showed that innovative work is brought into being when “pluralities of perspectives” are taken into account.

In The Washington Post, Valerie Strauss also questioned the meaning innovation by looking at the language used in the report. She notes that Hong Kong’s main innovation was “more peer evaluation of teachers in primary and secondary education”; Korea’s main innovation was “more peer evaluation of teachers in secondary education”; and Singapore’s main innovation was “more use of incentives for secondary teachers.” But is innovation a matter of degree? Reports such as this one raise questions about how we can measure concepts without a shared understanding of what those concepts mean. As the news report from Indonesia points out, even Indonesian education experts were surprised to see the country at the top of the list, especially when it has been ranked among the lowest performing countries in math and science on the 2013 OECD Pisa exam.

Deirdre Faughey

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Reforms in Korea in the Asia Pacific Journal of Education

Asia Pacific Journal of Education

Asia Pacific Journal of Education

In the most recent issue of the Asia Pacific Journal of Education, two studies highlighted teachers’ perceptions of, and resistance to, the Korean National Curriculum reform of 2011. In “Teachers’ perceptions of the recent curriculum reforms and their implementation: What can we learn from the case of Korean elementary teachers?”, Minjeong Park and Youl-Kwan Sung examine how and why Korean elementary teachers have negative feelings about the recent curriculum reform, and suggest that teachers need effective professional development programs, opportunities to work with peer teachers, and that context and culture be considered in the implementation process.

In “School reforms, principal leadership, and teacher resistance: Evidence from Korea,” Joo-Ho Park and Dong Wook Jeong, studied the relationship between principal leadership and teacher resistance to school changes, finding that “a principal’s initiative leadership is significantly related to the reduction of teacher resistance to change, in particular on the emotional and behavioural dimensions.” They emphasized the importance of human aspects in the reform process, concluding that school reformers should be “advised to rethink the school change model design in a way of fully capturing human aspects in the reform process.”

South Korea

Digital wave reaching classrooms
Woo-Young, L.  The Korea Herald (10 April 2012)

The Ministry of Education, as a part of its “smart education” drive, has pushed for all Korean schools to use digital textbooks by 2015.  “Teachers expect digital education tools to enable self-directed learning, an ideal but elusive goal in the current education environment. Self-directed learners will not simply follow what teachers tell them to do, but search for information and knowledge about what interests them.”  Digital textbooks might be a way to accomplish these goals, according to education experts, allowing for the Korean school system to remove away from the model of teachers focusing exclusively on teaching students for examinations.  “It all starts with digital textbooks. They’re not restricted to content only, but will upgrade the whole school system and education to a new level,” believes an elementary school headmaster, Jo Yong-deuk.  Others question the educational gains first or second grade students may receive from using digital textbooks.

Additionally, the Pearson Foundation has produced this video about Korea’s move toward digitized textbooks.

South Korea

Korea to support multicultural children
Lee Woo-young, The Korea Herald (12 March 2012)

“The Education Ministry announced Monday that it would establish more preparatory schools to help children from multicultural families learn the Korean language and culture before they enter regular public school,” according to the article.  Prep schools currently offer basic language and culture courses before entering the public school system.  The Education Ministry will also ensure that Korean as a Second Language is offered in public schools. “As a part of this effort, the ministry plans to increase dual-language instructors tenfold from 120 this year to 1,200 in 2015 so that there will be at least one such teacher assigned to every 50 students.”