The government is making a number of changes to the current education system in order to harness each person’s individual creativity and ideas, said Vice Education Minister Na Seung-il.
“In a quest for creative talent, we should reduce the immense stress students experience from excessive competition for college entrance exams and the heavy burden of studying,” he said in an email interview with The Korea Herald.
Korea’s economy is already undergoing a paradigm shift from “fast follower” to “first mover,” but the current education system is not conducive to producing out-of-the-box thinkers, the former Seoul National University professor said.
“We have advanced from hardware and software period and now live in an era of humanware. It’s time to find a new system that can bring about individuals’ talent and creativity through education,” he added.
Following are excerpts from the interview with the vice education minister.
Q: How do you define creative talent?
A: It is people’s ability to face new challenges with imagination and creativity and to be able to deal with complex problems with a synthesis of knowledge from different fields.
Creative talent is the core and foundation for the Park Geun-hye administration’s vision for a “creative economy.” We aim to provide fair opportunities through education to all creative individuals to find and develop their talents and dreams.
Q: Why do you emphasize software education?
A: Software is the language of the 21st century, and is one of core skills that will lead future industries. We need some 250,000 IT experts over the next five years. However, we have a shortage of software experts to fill the rising demand.
The ministry is planning to open a software high school by 2015, and change the current high-school computer lessons to focus more on software programming. Also, we’re going to provide more courses at colleges to cultivate software developers and engineers.
Q: How do you plan to encourage universities to implement innovative and integrated research?
A: We’ll provide universities with financial support to encourage them to run courses to develop students’ integrated thinking ability.
We’re going to develop an integrated curriculum for undergraduate studies with the Korea National Institute for General Education and introduce it to each college. For graduate schools, we’re going to increase their student quota to courses that provide cross-discipline and cross-department research.
Q: Experts say the excessive competition for college entrance exams hinders development of creative talents.
A: I completely agree that we should change this competitive, exam-focused learning environment. Our first and primary goal is to improve the quality of public education. Secondly, we’re seeking to create a society in which one’s ability is valued over academic background. For this, we’re going to introduce the National Competency Standards (the job competency evaluation model), and strengthen vocational education. Also, we’re planning to expand after-school classes and provide free high school education as well as halving tuition fees for students from low-income families to provide fair and equal education to all.
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org