Tag Archives: South Korea

Scan of education news: Asia

Photo: Nguyen Thi Hoang Yen

Photo: Nguyen Thi Hoang Yen

As we return from hiatus and schools in the US open their doors again, our latest scan looks over the recent education news in East Asia. This quick scan reveals a of variety concerns with the extent and quality of education. Reports include those focusing on the long-standing need to ensure that all school-age students are enrolled in and attend schools in Pakistan and the Philippines. Reports also address continuing attacks on girls and girls’ education in Afghanistan. Other reports describe what some have called a “problematic” college admissions process in Vietnam, and, even in South Korea, often touted as a high-performing system, there are concerns about changing populations, particularly in rural villages, and related school closings. Several broad efforts to improve education systems are also in the news, including a “blueprint” in Malaysia focusing on the quality of graduates, a “radical” school reform in Taiwan, a new education programme from the education and training ministry in Vietnam, and a general drive to improve education in Pakistan and prepare students for the knowledge economy.

Why 25 million children are out of school in Pakistan – The Express Tribune http://buff.ly/1LSObpr

#AkoSiDaniel Campaign Aims to Empower Children in the Philippines Through Education The World Post http://buff.ly/1JwTZPx

Girls’ education under attack: Over 100 Afghan schoolgirls poisoned Daily Pakistan http://buff.ly/1Ulu8o1

Vietnam’s education minister takes responsibility for problematic college admission process, Tuoi Tre News  http://buff.ly/1L2P7BW

As South Korean Villages Empty, More Primary Schools Face Closings, New York Times http://buff.ly/1KpZ0iG

Malaysian Education Blueprint focuses on quality of graduates – Minister, Astro Awani http://buff.ly/1O6Ib9O

Education and training ministry unveils new education programme – VietNam News http://buff.ly/1KFGhy6

Pakistan launches drive to improve education system, The Daily Times http://buff.ly/1Ulu47P

Creative demand: Taiwan says radical school reform will set it apart, Christian Science Monitor http://buff.ly/1Kq0sBz

Taiwan: Progressive Education Reform Unrepresented Nations And Peoples Organization, UNPO http://buff.ly/1L2SOrb

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The “biggest-ever” league table?

The latest education report from the OECD ranks 76 countries according to the percentage of the population that lacks basic skills. The report, by Eric Hanushek of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and Ludger Woessmann of the University of Munich, derives the ranking from the latest test scores from the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) for 15-year-olds and the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) for 14-year-olds. In what BBC News called the “biggest-ever education league table,” Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan (again) top the charts. Coming in at number six, Finland is the top-ranking non-Asian country. Our latest scan of education news around the world finds many media reports highlighting the relative ranking of particular countries, but a number mention as well the report’s claims of a connection between improving performance on the tests and economic growth. At the same time, it is worth noting that not everyone agrees there is a straightforward relationship between performance on tests like PISA and TIMMS and economic outcomes. James Heckman and colleagues Tim Kautz, Ron Diris, Bas ter Weel, Lex Borghans, in particular, have emphasized that current tests like PISA and TIMMS “do not adequately capture non-cognitive skills, personality traits, goals, character, motivations, and preferences that are valued in the labour market, in school, and in many other domains.” As they explain in Fostering and measuring skills: Improving cognitive and non-cognitive skills to promote lifetime success and Hard evidence on soft skills, for many outcomes, the predictive power of non-cognitive skills rivals or exceeds that of cognitive skills.

“Global school rankings: Interactive map shows standards of education across the world,” The Independent

“Asian kids race ahead on learning: OECD,” The Australian

Bottom in EU on OECD education league, again,” Cyprus Mail

“New education rankings from the OECD put Finland in sixth position worldwide—the top European country and the first non-Asian country in the list,” yle UUTISET

“Ireland ranks 15th in global league table for maths, science; GDP would be boosted by 2.3 per cent if universal basic skill levels were achieved,” Irish Times

“OECD report links school achievement and economic growth; despite oil wealth, Arab world trails far behind,” Israel Times

“When it comes to education, Singapore is a world-beater,”  The Straights Times

“Turkey ranks 41st in education on OECD report of 76 countries,” Today’s Zambian

UK below Poland and Vietnam in biggest ever international education rankings, TES Connect

“Improving Basic Education Can Boost U.S. Economy by $27 Trillion,” U.S. News & World Report

–Thomas Hatch

Teacher autonomy in South Korea and around the world

Teacher autonomy – which refers to teachers’ ability to develop their own curriculum and instruction – has sometimes been seen as a way to support teachers’ professionalism. However, in a recent conversation, Won-Pyo Hong, an Associate Professor at Yonsei University, described how teachers may not always see “autonomy” as a positive development. He talked with me about a study he conducted with with Peter Youngs, Associate Professor at the University of Virginia, titled “Why are teachers afraid of curricular autonomy? Contradictory effects of the new national curriculum in South Korea.” That study focused on teachers’ experiences with the new national curriculum (designed in 2009), which was supposed to allow for teacher autonomy. As Hong explained, the reality was more complicated:

“Policymakers insisted that granting curricular autonomy would provide more freedom to schools from the central controls and encourage them to develop varied curricula according to their local conditions and student interests. However, it needs to be noted that the curriculum revision in 2009 was made under a conservative government who pursued a market-based approach to education reforms. So, the curricular autonomy embedded in the 2009 national curriculum had conveyed dual meanings; on the surface, it seemed to empower teachers by giving more curricular discretion to individual schools. On the other hand, it reduced government interventions over curricular issues which could cause competition among schools and widen the gap between schools of poor and better conditions in terms of the quality of school curriculum.”

While the prior curriculum presented a sequence of study in each content area and grade level, the new curriculum set a total number of instructional hours for a given subject over three years. Additionally, the number of subjects that a school could offer was reduced to eight or less in a semester (down from ten), and schools were encouraged to offer intensive courses. As Hong explained,

“if a school previously offered both music and visual arts for an hour per week throughout the year, now it had to make a semester-long course to offer only one subject per semester. This change was made to reduce students’ workload and thus make learning more engaging and comprehensive. Schools were also allowed to reduce or increase the number of instructional hours for each subject up to 20% in general schools, 35% in self-managing schools designated by provincial authorities. This was quite a substantial change, as it was the first time that trade-offs became possible across the subject areas. For instance, schools were allowed to teach more hours for a certain subject area as long as it maintained the total number of instructional hours by reducing hours assigned to other subjects. Therefore, teachers in a school were required to work together to determine how to adjust instructional hours across the subject areas, considering the local context and student needs.”

Hong and Young found that when autonomy was built into the curriculum the teachers questioned its authenticity, as they felt that the autonomy had been provided as an expectation, rather than obtained through their own efforts. Hong explained that another notable finding was that “teachers worried that schools would abuse the given autonomy to teach major subject areas more often, further marginalizing other subject areas. This is because student performances in Korean, English, and math carry the most weight for the college admission process, thus becoming primary concerns for parents and students.”

As a result, Korean teachers did not feel more empowered as the autonomy felt artificial. The authors noted that “curriculum scholars need to examine more closely when and how teachers’ curricular autonomy promotes positive results in practice.” They also noted that teachers who participated in the study felt that autonomy was impossible when subject area content standards remained unchanged.

While the current government in South Korea is pursuing a new revision of the national curriculum, one that focuses on cross-disciplinary thinking, attention to teacher autonomy is quickly waning. As Hong explains, the Korean cases illustrates some of the complexities of government-initiated curricular autonomy and raises questions about what it might take to support teachers’ autonomy in productive ways.

Teacher autonomy around the world

The conversation about teacher autonomy in South Korea was particularly interesting given recent interest in issues of teacher autonomy in a number of different parts of the world. In the US, in particular, the word “autonomy” is used frequently to describe what some educators believe is lacking in the teaching profession today. For example, recent Global Teacher prizewinner Nancy Atwell, noted for her innovative and playful pedagogy, has called for a more “autonomous, creative and thoughtful” approach to teaching, which she fears is now impossible in U.S. public schools. Atwell caused a bit of a stir online when she said, “If you’re a creative, smart young person, I don’t think this is the time to go into teaching unless an independent school would suit you.”

In addition, this past month NPR in the US presented a series in which they focused on the teacher pipeline, noting in one segment that enrollment in teacher training programs is down as much as 50% in some states. The reporters followed up in another segment with Richard Ingersoll, a Professor of Education and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied the topic of teacher retention for decades. As Ingersoll explained, his research has shown that the problem of teacher retention is related to teacher autonomy, and few opportunities for teachers to have “input into the key decisions in the building that affect a teacher’s job.” Ingersoll says, “One thing we’ve found is that the shrinking classroom autonomy is now the biggest dissatisfaction of math teachers nationally.”

Similar concerns about teacher autonomy have been echoed in news reports from around the world as well. For example, one report from Canada decries the country’s lack of support for teacher professionalism, and provides a comparison with Holland, Finland, Switzerland and Japan; teachers in British Columbia call for greater control over their own professional development; leaders of the Labour Party in the UK have criticized what they see as an ‘exam factory’ approach to schooling, and call for more teacher autonomy; and, a new national curriculum in Wales has been designed to allow for teacher autonomy. However, is everyone talking about the same thing?

Does “autonomy” = more responsibility?

One report from Hong Kong presents an example that shows that when “autonomy” is linked with “professionalism,” it can mean that teachers are expected to become stakeholders in their schools. The South China Morning Post writes that since Hong Kong introduced a school-based management policy, teachers must “participate in groups such as student academic affairs and pastoral care committees to help keep the school functioning effectively.” The article goes on to commend these changes, but it also notes that in other countries teachers might expect to be compensated for these additional responsibilities – rather than have them incorporated into a newly defined “professionalism.”

Does “autonomy” = innovation?

In another article from the UK, Labour Party leader Tristram Hunt criticized what he called the “exam factory” approach to schooling, and called for changes from the “bottom up, ‘through giving teachers and school leaders the freedom and autonomy to deliver an exciting education.’” However, as with much of the discussion on teacher autonomy, there is little attention to how teachers and schools interpret what the term “autonomy” means, and/or what it is that teachers and schools want to do, or will be expected to do, with this autonomy. Will teacher autonomy lead to the excitement and innovation that many hope for? Or, will it leave teachers alone to address the needs of the students and the community? For example, in Shanghai, teachers are expected by parents to prepare students for high stakes exams. As one article explains, student performance on such exams is so important that parents are willing to attend school with their children so that they can learn the material and reinforce it at home. Lacking support, teachers might feel pressured to do more of what they feel they need to do, which might be more test prep.

Deirdre Faughey

Multicultural Education in South Korea

Over the past decade or so, South Korea (as well as Taiwan and Japan) has experienced a wave of immigration that has resulted in an increasingly ethnic and racially diverse population. The issue has received considerable attention—from the media, as well as from politicians—as the country works to find ways to address the needs of multicultural population, as well as a rising concerns about ethnic conflictsdiscrimination, and a general sense that South Korea is “not ready for multiculturalism.” However, South Korea is a country that been considering ways to “redefine multiculturalism,” such as with the concept of Tamunhwa (multiculturalism), which suggests that South Koreans need to learn as much as they can about the new immigrant population while finding ways to create a “new national identity not based on ethnicity.”

Dr. Jeehun Kim & Dr. Jang-ham Na

Dr. Jeehun Kim & Dr. Jang-ham Na

In order to learn more about how educators are addressing multiculturalism in the classroom, Eun-Kyoung Chung and Deirdre Faughey spoke with Dr. Jeehun Kim and Dr. Jang-ham Na, two visiting scholars at Teachers College, Columbia University, this semester. In this interview, posted on Esteem: Conversations Between Educators, the two scholars explain what they are learning about the multicultural classroom in South Korea. For example, while textbooks and the curriculum are centralized and the Ministry of Education has established guidelines for multicultural instruction, there is no mechanism for ensuring that these guidelines are followed by teachers and schools. This might be problematic for curricular reforms that aim to cater to multicultural populations that are geographically specific, as well as curricular reforms that aim to promote sensitivity to multiculturalism throughout the country.  The scholars also address the issue of teacher education, and the difficulties that sometimes arise when student teachers ask for strategies and methods that address the needs of a diverse student body. Since South Koreans have long considered their population homogenous, the issue of multiculturalism can become personal. As Jang-ham Na explains, “When it comes to multiculturalism, depending on what social background you have, sometimes you have some privilege compared with others. But the privilege will be gone in other places. So we have to be more critical.”

Esteem has also published recent interviews with scholars such as Luis Huerta, Christopher Emdin, Karen Hammerness, Maxine Greene, and Pedro Noguera.  To learn more please visit www.esteemjournal.org

South Korea

Controversy over abolition of NEAT English test among high school teachers

by DoKyoung Lee, Kookmin Ilbo (June 21, 2013)

*link in Korean

As part of a new university entrance system, NEAT (National English Ability Test) faces abolition even before its introduction as errors have been revealed in the electronic data processing system. Invested with 30 billion won (US$ 26 million), NEAT was designed to aim for practical and effective English education, an escape from traditional grammar drill training, and will replace the existing English exam starting in 2015; however, this date has been pushed back 2019 due unprepared school teachers and students, and concerns about the possibility of increasing private education expenses. While there are conflicting opinions on the issue among the schoolteachers who prepare students for this exam, the Ministry of Education has avoided further comment after mentioning that they will indicate their plan for NEAT when they make an announcement for new policies of revised university entrance system in coming August.

For more information:

Homegrown English tests in trouble

Scanning the world: Alternatives to Public Schools

cape20.v033.i01.coverReports in both academic journals and news publications from around the world show that alternatives to conventional public schools, including migrant schools, private vocational schools, and unaccredited schools, have been a recent topic in the news as many countries try to meet the diverse needs and demands of growing populations.

In the latest issue of The Asia Pacific Journal of Education, Sang Kook Lee examines “Migrant schools in the Thailand-Burma borderland: from the informal to the formal.”  The article explores the existence of migrant schools and how they enable children to “have their own education even in the absence of proper legal status.” The growth of these schools indicate the building up of migrant education institutions. For example, since the mid-2000s, Thailand has supported migrant schools in an attempt to “regularize them as learning centers” under the guidance of the government. The article argues that government interest in these unaccredited schools does not indicate a victory of the state over migrants, and migrant schools; instead, they believe it shows the impressive growth of migrant education, which has “achieved recognition from the state as a legitimate formal institution.”

As noted in an earlier post, China has also addressed the issue of migrant schools; however, China decided to shut down the schools and change policy to allow non-native students to attend public schools. While some of these schools were deemed unsafe, parents lamented the loss of the private institutions that they believed their children to be both happy, and learning.

Recently, an article in The New York Times  titled “Trade Schools Offer Hope for Rural Migrants in China,” highlighted the issue of funding for private-run vocational schools operating in China. According to the article,

“While China has long had state-run vocational schools, critics say that they are bogged down by bureaucracy and overwhelmed by the huge number of youths who need training. Private enterprises like BN Vocational School can fill that gap, but only with the outside funding needed to be able to train poor students for free.”

Schools like BN Vocational School operate with support from charities, corporations, and both the Chinese and foreign governments.

Meanwhile, as reported in The Hankyoreh, in “More unaccredited schools popping up to offer international-style education,” South Korean parents have been paying exorbitant tuition rates send their children to unaccredited alternative educational facilities that provide an education that is “not recognized as regular schooling by the Ministry of Education.” Since these schools do not have to report what they teach or register with the government, they are not subject to regulations. Many focus on international education and immersive English education, and charge such high tuition that they are not available for low-income families. While some have called for the government to regulate the excessively high cost of these schools, the government is searching for ways to satisfy the demand for alternative education through public schools, and “help unaccredited alternative schools become places that can serve the interests of the entire public.”

South Korea

South Korea’s government to increase childcare subsidies for 3 to 5 year-olds

Yonhap News (September 26, 2012)

Under a government plan to expand public welfare benefits and help relieve families of the financial burden of childcare, all South Korean households with kindergarten children between the ages of 3 and 5 will be paid 220,000 won (US$196) per child every month. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, has announced that the monthly childcare subsidy for families with 5-year-olds attending kindergarten or daycare centers will rise by 20,000 won (US$18) per child from the current 200,000 won (US$179). Young children not at kindergarten or daycare centers will not be covered by the subsidy program. 

For more information:

Link to article (in Korean)

Link to the Finance Ministry’s final budget plan for 2013 (in English)

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