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No Thank You to Korean Education

So my coworkers have been a buzz about Barrack Obama's recent comment that claimed that "Korean students are in school a month longer than American students. Koreans seem to find this as a vindication of the hours and hours of studying and the grueling and competitive regime of tests that they have to go through to get into one of three universities that Koreans consider worth a damned.

Today it dawned on me that this does not compute. Koreans usually complain about the education system and most seem to acknowledge that Korea schools seem to put it double the time studying only to get about the same results as Americans in math and science, piss poor results in English, and almost no results in things like writing, presentation, political science. Korean schools can produce Doctors and engineers, but they are handicapping Korea in the gobal economy due to their inability to produce learners that are flexible, familiar with critical thinking, or able to do anything other than regurgitate the infomation from the test.

Not that the American system is all peaches and cream and without many of the same problems and then some. It is certain though that the Korean system would rob us of one of our most precious resources: Innovation.

As middle school teacher that is neck-deep in the Korean education system, I find Obama comment reckless. Apparently I am not alone. To look at the Korea Education system with envy is absurd. The whole system is only kept afloat through expensive and morally dubious privite after-school cram schools.

I do recognize that this was a minor comment in a speech that I generally agree with, but a minor survey of Foriegn English teachers in Korea would shed a lot of light on the situation.

Views: 98

Tags: curriculum, education, korea, obama, reform, schooling, schools, studying


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Comment by ddeubel on March 29, 2009 at 12:27am
Ellen,

Ning just ate my long reply! UGHHHHHHHHH

I have to get out for a run (long day at a conference, no time yesterday...).

I did read Chuck's work - wow, he is definitely of two minds... Has he ever read anything by my favorite common guy poet, Bukowski. He would appreciate how he combines both matter of factness and sensitivity/spirituality....

About kids. I agree and disagree. Kids will always find ways to become...truly. The problem I think is different, both bigger and deeper...more later...

The periodic table is a FIND! wow and I'll put that up in the resources 4 sure.... Amazing. Thanks.

Got to run up my own Ba Na..

David

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Comment by Ellen Pham on March 29, 2009 at 8:26am
Hi David,

I hate it when that happens! Sometimes, when my response has gotten really long, I'll feel a little panic and do a select all> copy, just in case. I hope you find the spirit/energy to write what you think again... you know I am interested : ).

I have to give my sister credit for the periodic table find... she is such a smarty pants! I was subbing in her class one day (they are all sweethearts, all 100 or so of them, it is amazing) and that's what the kids were learning... I have never been interested in the periodic table before, they were all interested, picking their little elements to research and make trading cards for... she teaches 7th/8th graders. One boy always laughs loud when she says periods for describing parts of the table, she finally took to saying to him (sweetly, she is always sweet), you really have to get out more : ). She also explained to me later which parts of the table could be seen as female and which as male... can you guess? It's the columns that go down the side... the column that houses the elements that have only one electron in their valence (outer) layer are highly excitable...hydrogen, lithium, sodium, etc...those are on the left... the elements in the column that is next to the last on the right have 7 electrons in their valence shell (8 is the magic number), fluorine, chlorine, bromine... they are almost perfectly round and fulfilled... guess what happens? So the arrangement of the chart actually makes sense : ))), at least I'll remember that much!

Yes, Bukowski would be a great poet to introduce to Chuck... I remember some videos that you posted of his poems, I have them downloaded somewhere... one thing about Chuck, though... .he has no edge, and he doesn't really understand that in others... he is innocent : ). Uh oh, I sound like Ted Bundy's mom, saying her son is a good boy! But I mean it... he is FIERCE (which of course I eat up, because I am the only one who can always, always contain him) but he is from a younger time, like maybe my grandmother's time... innocent : ). That does not mean he will not call out from the bedroom, as I am trying to write, Ellen, Ellen, come see the peking duck!, (annoying), but that he does it with the spirit/perspective/motivation of an 11 or 12 year old! Gee David, see all your missing with this long term marriage thing? : )) What can I say, he's mine and he loves me : )

Chuck has a great story coming out about the plight of the water buffalo in present day Vietnam- I am excited to publish it, but we haven't worked on the story yet... already, we are skipping classes. It is the teacher's responsibility to make sure class occurs...

Justino, I am taking over your blog post with this! I promise, when I get two stories, I will make a separate post... until then, thanks for the space. Chuck really likes when I tell him what you guys have said about his story... it makes him smile.

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Comment by Justinoxxii on March 30, 2009 at 7:50am
You guys are always welcome in my backyard :)

"Why do so many children feel so apathetic about their own future? Have so little belief in their ability to have an effect on their own lives? So little belief in themselves?
"


I blame modern advertising. It is atleast certain that it contributes to it.
Comment by d_so on November 14, 2009 at 11:14am
Korea schools seem to put it double the time studying only to get about the same results as Americans in math and science, piss poor results in English, and almost no results in things like writing, presentation, political science.

how... do you come to the conclusion that Korea gets the same results as Americans in math and science? i thought it was common knowledge that America lags behind in these areas. for example:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/04/AR2...
http://www.oecd.org/document/22/0,3343,en_2649_34487_39713238_1_1_1...
http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0923110.html

or you could look up the OECD website to see the PISA rankings for each country. the reports have to be paid for but the data is easily downloadable.

as for their "piss poor" results in English, I think that's a bit unfair isn't it? Shouldn't the country's inherent language and the literacy rate of said language be the comparison point for an education system? And in terms of that, Korea's 99 percent literacy rate is pretty decent, good for 19th in the world (tied with the USA):
— United Nations Development Programme Report 2009.[3][4] page 171 (you can see it on the wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_literacy_rate)

i'm not agreeing or disagreeing at this point cuz i feel like i need to know more about the korean education system before choosing a side. i suggest you adopt a similar mindset before talking smack on a country's education system.

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Comment by ddeubel on November 14, 2009 at 12:01pm
d_so,

You make valid points and mainly the point that I consider too often never followed -- that we have to see things in a large context before tirades, labeling, stereotyping etc...

I do think Korea can do much better at putting quality over quantity. Not just in education but also business/economy. The amount of time should never be a goal, always it is that / achievement. But you are right in your stats. Here's just one graph. Lots more at the oecd . This one is dense but a good read on future trends.
http://browse.oecdbookshop.org/oecd/pdfs/browseit/9608021E.PDF
This one looks at education in general - www.oecd.org/dataoecd/14/24/43319324.ppt

I've published the reports annually here - will do so this year also. I'll have to look up a link. Cheers,
David


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Comment by Ellen Pham on November 14, 2009 at 6:47pm
And a person has to even take into consideration how the numbers are presented in graphs.

Look at the graph below. The measurement scale starts at 460, which exaggerates the difference in scores between countries.

It would be a more accurate visual representation of the data if the scale started at zero.

For example, on quick glance the graph gives the impression that that Japan's scores are about double that of the US (a difference of 100%, by the way!) when the difference is only about 12%.

Even if we never fully formulate that thought, the graph is designed to leave the reader with that impression.

*********

Now we have another question to ask ourselves- why has the numerical data been presented in this way? And I almost fell into another trap, assuming that since the chart claims the data is from the US Department of Education (complete with year of report, etc) that the skewed graph is also from the USDE. And I begin to think, why would the US Department of Education skew the data in this way? And my paranoia sets in- has the standardized test industry gained so much influence in Washington that the actual State Department is willing to make our educational system look worse than it is?? Shit... And then I realize no, it's not the state department, the graph comes from something called OECD, and I google it- here is their about page.

I am so disappointed. This organization has been around for 40 years, and claims:

Monitoring, analysing and forecasting
For more than 40 years, OECD has been one of the world's largest and most reliable sources of comparable statistics and economic and social data. As well as collecting data, OECD monitors trends, analyses and forecasts economic developments and researches social changes or evolving patterns in trade, environment, agriculture, technology, taxation and more.


How am I supposed to trust a word that comes out of this organization's figurative mouth if they are willing to cheat on something as simple and straight forward as presenting testing data? And believe me, they knew exactly what they were doing when they designed this graph.

----------------------
The third point- what exactly are these tests and what have the tests measured? A good math test at the eighth-grade level would pick up if a student had been mislead by the way the graph had presented the data. Being able to "perform the operation" is only the start of mathematical understanding. One also needs to understand why that operation works (the logical thinking behind the formula) and be able to apply that understanding to new situations ( be able to problem-solve with it).

Sigh sigh sigh sigh. Such a simple thing, so overlooked.
Comment by d_so on November 15, 2009 at 5:30am
you can take a similar line of reasoning and deconstruct every test, as we've seen done for common standards like the SAT and the IQ test. But as long as the OP is going to make a statement about test results and world rankings, then he should at least try to find some reputable source of data to back up his claims. the OECD is pretty much the gold standard for any economics/business class when it comes to accessible data for both news organizations and academic work.

even if you feel the chart is "biased", i would hardly call it cheating. out of 30 ish countries in the OECD, the US consistently ranks in the mid 20's in Science and Math, while KOrea is either one or two. So not only is there a significant scoring difference, but also in OECD rankings. This completely contradicts the OP's statement that they have similar results in math and science.

maybe the chart would be more significant to you if it started from zero. however, if you recall back to your statistics classes, you'll remember that it's the 3 standard deviations from the mean that are significant. A score of zero would be an outlier and insignificant to the data.

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Comment by Ellen Pham on November 15, 2009 at 6:14am
Mark Twain: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." :D

But seriously, d_so, thank you for pointing out that the chart is geared towards people who remember their high school or college statistics class. That probably puts the graph in its proper context- it makes more sense that way.
Comment by d_so on November 15, 2009 at 6:17am
haha yeah that quote is awesome

and of course we learned our statistics from our education system! so maybe Obama should look here before opening his mouth next time

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Comment by ddeubel on November 15, 2009 at 10:11am
Ellen,

d_so beat me to it. I see your concerns and yes, there is bias. However, as I remember my stats prof saying many years ago -- you can only limit, not eliminate bias. Especially visuals being more prone to bias (look at our maps - if you only knew the truth how they "paint" a very unreal picture of the continents/world).

So yeah, I guess we can be disappointed. But on the other hand, they were playing to a particular audience and also, trying to highlight the differences - thus, I guess, their choice of graph.

I have a great presentation somewhere - of graphs about Korean education. I'll have to find it and post. Some real neat ones - just one of those things I've collected for a rainy day :)

Here's the OECD ppt for 2008. 2009 will usually come available late Jan. 2010.

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