Korea: Transition team rolls back English-language policies; Public sentiment was influential in bringing about reversal

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Tue Jan 29 14:58:34 UTC 2008

Transition team rolls back English-language policies
Public sentiment was influential in bringing about reversal

 Incoming President Lee Myung-bak¡¯s transition team announced that it
has reversed its position on English-immersion education. It will not
implement its plan to initiate nationwide English-immersion programs,
under which all classes would have been taught in English by 2010. At
a briefing on January 28, Lee Dong-kwan, the spokesman for the
transition team, said the incoming administration has no plans to
pursue English-immersion education at the national level. ¡°Some
schools that operate autonomously, such as independent schools or
those in special zones, have already adopted English-immersion
programs voluntarily but there has been, and will not be, any
assistance from the state,¡± Lee continued. New educational courses to
be launched in 2010 will focus on strengthening English-language
speaking and writing skills only within the context of classes that
teach English as a foreign language, but classes in other subjects
will not be taught in English, according to Lee.

The transition team has apparently changed its position due to what
has become a powerful public sentiment against the idea of
implementing English-immersion education in the public schools.
Parents, teachers and education policy experts alike criticized the
plan for its impracticality and an anticipated increase in the amount
parents would have had to pay in supplemental education expenses. Lee
Kyung-sook, the chairwoman of the transition team, in speaking to
reporters at a press conference held on January 22, had said that all
classes at elementary and secondary schools would be taught in English
regardless of subject. A public hearing slated for January 30 will now
focus on ways to increase the number of classes conducted in English
at these schools.

The transition team appears to have canceled the English-immersion
plan following strong objections by parents and those in the education
community against the English-language education policies of the
incoming administration. In particular, educational experts, teachers
and parents have strongly criticized the transition team¡¯s plan to
initiate English-immersion education, saying that it will further
increase the nation¡¯s dependence on private education and cause
students to fail in their regular course of study. In a related
development, the transition team plans to introduce a new testing
system to evaluate English-language proficiency. The test would
replace the English portion of the college entrance exam and would be
used to evaluate reading and listening skills on a regular basis
beginning in 2013, according to the transition team. Spokesman Lee
said, ¡°A regular test, to be conducted from 2013, will only test
reading and listening skills - similar to the current (college)
entrance examination. A test for evaluating English-language ability
in the four areas of listening, reading, speaking and writing is
expected to be conducted as early as 2015.

The presidential transition team has also decided to create a task
force to strengthen English-language education in the public schools.
The task force will include transition team Chairwoman Lee and Lee
Ju-ho, an advisory member of the transition team¡¯s subcommittee on
society, education and culture. In addition, members of the
subcommittees on society, education, and culture, and planning and
coordination, as well as outside experts, will join the task force.
The transition team will hold a public hearing on English-language
education in the public schools, which will be attended by more than
10 education experts, on January 30.

Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani at hani.co.kr]

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