[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 
school students.

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 
global language. 

06-07-2006 17:00

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