Korea mulls Western-style public school calendar

[Eye on English] English fluency can be boosted by presentation, problem solving skills

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Published : 2014-03-19 15:35
Updated : 2014-03-19 18:31

There are differences between higher education in America and in Korea. For example, in America everyone is able to go to college, but not everyone graduates. In Korea only the best go to college and everyone graduates.

Another difference is the chance for students to choose the major or field they are interested in. In America the first two years of college are a mix of general courses enabling students to experience many different fields of study. Then they can declare their major in their junior year.

It is not uncommon for freshmen in America to change their major seven times before finally deciding on one at the end of their second year. In Korea their major is almost chosen for them and they are placed into those classes from the very beginning of college.

Todd Lee Doyle

I had a student once who had three majors just so he could experience other areas of interest. In other words, he would graduate with three degrees. I teach a broad range of majors, from Korean traditional dance students to medical students.

One of the courses I teach is presentation skills in English and one of the presentations is on problem solving. Students identify a real-world problem and offer solutions.

Students have started asking for ― or more like demanding ― a change to the educational process. They now want to learn about more fields of study to become well-rounded, and also to come out of college as creative problem solvers, not just robots to be used in a corporation.

This is exactly what foreign professors have been attempting to implement in their classes.

While at first there was resistance, now students are not only embracing the idea of being creative problem solvers, they are demanding it in all areas of study. Korea is moving into unchartered territory.

It is no longer satisfied with being a follower. Korea wants to become a leader in everything ― education, technology, industry and finance. The challenges facing the Korean people are immense and some would think overwhelming. Mainly because they face the changes that are the hardest to overcome, namely changes in culture.

If there is any one nation that can do this, it is Korea.

Education is going through changes, especially in higher education. Korean professors are working with Western professors and are learning and implementing Western educational practices.

One of the Western educational methods that has been used in college English courses is meta-cognitive learning. This is learning by sharing and working together to overcome real-world problems. Western educators have been using this form of education for years with mixed results.

Korean students remind me of people who have been lost in the desert without water and are thirsty for knowledge. Korean students are demanding classes that challenge them creatively and enable them to be part of the class rather than just being observers.

It has been challenging to get students away from just watching and listening to becoming participants in the educational process. Each day more and more are becoming part of this process. The question now is whether corporations will continue to encourage this in their controlled environments.

The Korean government realizes this is the future of Korea. The educational system is implementing it into its structure. Now the rest of Korea needs to embrace it. So one day Korea will produce a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates and change the world.

Todd Lee Doyle is an assistant professor of the College English Education Committee at Hanyang University. ― Ed.

By Todd Lee Doyle

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