[EDLING:1651] Korea: Quality of English Teaching Appears to Be Diminishing
Francis M. Hult
fmhult at DOLPHIN.UPENN.EDU
Thu Jun 8 03:59:26 UTC 2006
The Korea Times
School English Classes
Quality of Teaching Appears to Be Diminishing
English teaching at primary and secondary schools here appears to be
diminishing. According to a recent survey, a growing number of Korean teachers
of English conduct their classes in Korean only, contrary to efforts in
creating an environment in which students can be better immersed in English.
The number of teachers presenting English-only classes in elementary, middle
and high schools for an hour each week has declined, according to a Chonbuk
National University research survey.
Education authorities have emphasized the importance of teaching practical
English that is useful in daily conversation and aimed to enhance students'
interest in English. However, their efforts seem to have brought no tangible
results. The number of teachers using only English in class was 22.3 percent
in 2003, but fell to 19.9 in 2004 and 17.6 last year. Meanwhile, the ratio of
those using only Korean in class rose to 12.9 percent last year from 10.7
percent in 2004 and 9 percent in 2003.
We believe there are many reasons why teachers use more Korean than English in
their classes. Foremost is their lack of ability to speak English fluently.
Attending short-term training programs is the only means of improving
teachers' ability to speak English. Last year, 16,330 or 22.2 percent of
74,463 Korean English teachers throughout the country took part in
Englishrelated job training.
However, an increasing number of high school teachers are unwilling to take
part in training programs, saying the programs are not helpful in teaching
students preparing for entrance exams. Moreover, we are skeptical about the
effectiveness of the training programs in enhancing their ability to conduct
classes in English. Ten years have passed since English classes were
introduced in elementary schools here. However, we don't think the system has
made much of a contribution to raising English speaking ability among primary
The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development revealed its plan to
offer language training for 25,000 middle and high school English teachers
over the next five years. But we don't think it will be much help in enhancing
their general capabilities. The ministry should consider offering them
overseas training programs for more stable domestic English education. It is
also asked to invite as many native English speakers as possible to have them
teach at schools.
Our miserable teaching environments are causing people to send their children
to study overseas. Some 188,000 Korean students went to study abroad in 2004
alone, spending about 23 billion won. The infrastructure for English education
should be strengthened at a time when English is positioning itself as the
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