Korean Government: “Almost No Benef it From Foreign Language Education”

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Sep 29 14:49:23 UTC 2007

Government: "Almost No Benefit From Foreign Language Education"

With the South Korean government pushing to build foreign language
institutions — English villages, specialized high schools — at
seemingly breakneck speed, the Korea Educational Policy Institute is
calling for a time-out. There is no obvious benefit to these elite
institutions, they say, when you factor in the fact that they only
admit top students to start with. They also accuse them of being
implemented without clear plans, which certainly rings true to me.
Government education policy think tank the Korea Educational Policy
Institute criticized current policy on specialized high schools,
saying that in reality there is almost no benefit from foreign
language education and the introduction of a policy of elite
specialized high schools is not producing any special results.

On the 12th at the Appeal Commission for Teacher's lecture hall in
Samcheong-dong, Kang Yeong-hye, education policy research leader at
KEDI, made a similar presentation about "the present location and
growth of specialized high schools" at an educational reform debate
sponsored by developers. Head researcher Kang analyzed the language
scores of students in science vs. regular schools and foreign language
vs. regular schools, and introduced his findings by saying, "we
confirmed the effectiveness of science high schools but found there
was almost no benefit from foreign language high schools."

Science schools and foreign language schools all are considerably
ahead of regular schools but if you control for the variables of the
quality of the students, schools, and curricula, the difference
between foreign language schools and regular high schools cannot be
found. Kang emphasized that, "this shows that the benefits of the
specialized high schools which parents prefer are really the result of
having better environments and school districts, and selecting
superior students."

Kang spoke about the fact that specialized high schools are the cause
of private education [in other words, hagwons], saying, "our research
concluded that to enter a foreign language high school, 60.3% of
students received private education, and in the Seoul metropolitan
area 83.4% did so. Because entrance exams for specialized high schools
exceed the middle school curriculums, private education to prepare for
the specialized schools, aside from the burden of fierce competition,
leads to a crisis in public education as third-year classes collapse."

Kang also said, "as a considerable portion of the benefits of a
specialized high school is in their selection of students with
outstanding grades and family backgrounds, we believe that the
currently adopted policy on elite institutions cannot produce
significant results. In particular in the case of foreign language
high schools the meaning and character if the established policy of a
'foreign language genius' is unclear."

He proposed four reforms of specialized high schools.

1. Eliminate the current provisions in education law for specialized
high schools and reform them under new a new system

2. That foreign language high schools be judged by periodic evaluations.

3. That more than just scholastic performance be considered for
application to language high schools.

4. New methods for college entrance be expanded.

On the subject of the 'international high schools' which educational
boards are driven to develop, he said, "the rash establishment of
international high schools can bring the same problems as foreign
language high schools so their identity must be made clear in the
early stages." Kim Jin-hyeong, professor at Konkuk University who
attended as a debater, said, "the limitations of specialized high
schools, both for science and foreign languages, means their form is
not right. Especially as foreign language schools have lost their
capacity as specialized schools, changing to private, autonomous
establishments would be a step in the right direction."

Jeong Hyeon-cheol, researcher at KAIST, said, "current science high
schools have too many limits placed on them to play their role in the
gifted education system. Their school management and aid systems are
not very different from those of normal schools. Preparations for a
national policy of aiding and managing science high schools are
urgently needed." The Korean Federation of Teacher's Associations
review said, "the changing plans to the specialization of foreign
language high schools are not plans for a foundational solution for
the improvement of the elite education system but rather shortsighted
ideas that would create more problems. We call for a new, careful
discussion starting from the beginning."


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