Wednesday, November 15, 2006

English classes in English by 2015, and I'll be a monkey's uncle.

From the Korea Times

Many Korean English-language teachers are nervous about Seoul’s plan to change the nation’s English education system as many of them would face forcible premature retirement unless they can conduct classes in English by 2015.

As well they should be nervous since too many will be out of a job.
The reaction came after Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Kim Shin-il unveiled plans to upgrade the English skills of students through the intensive training of teachers. The minister is ambitious enough to mandate all English teachers to conduct classes in English by 2015.

Does anyone besides me wonder if Minister Kim can speak a lick of English?
The plan is a tall order for Korean English teachers and many CEOs say the direction is right but question whether the plan can stick to its schedule without causing resistance from teachers.

"tall order" I hate to be the pessimist here but that doesn't even begin to describe the cluster@#@#$ this is going to be if it even gets off the ground. And can anything be done without resistance from the teachers? More specifically the Teacher's Union? Experience says flatly "NO"

``If the government wants to change English teachers, the change should come from English teachers themselves. We teachers will never accept these oppressive changes,’’
said Song Jae-hyeok, an English teacher at MunChang Middle School in downtown Seoul.

See what I mean? I can see the English teachers out on the street now with signs like this that say "No English Do Korean"
Some policy makers criticize the plan for being lacking in detail.

And anyone is suprised by this?
``In this age of globalization, it sounds plausible, but the unrealistic plan gives me a bitter smile,’’ said Rep. Chung Moon-hun of the main opposition Grand National Party (GNP)

What the heck does that mean? Did he say that in English or did someone just show us how well they learned English in school.
The minister calls for increasing by 10 times the budget for upgrading English-language education between now and 2008.

Somebody was going to mention money sooner or later. Is anyone besides me feeling any similarity between this and Former Seoul Mayor Lee's plan to build a canal through Korea?
Kim Chon-hong, director of the team for in charge of the minister’s program, said the government is responding to public calls for improvements in English language education. In addition, Korean companies, he said, demand a high level of English language skills.

Translation: We have to tell them something and make it look good, so we are going to make this overblown proposal that has absolutely no chance of being accepted by the teachers or the budget makers and then we can at least say that we tried and blame it on them.
He said right now Korea is in the middle level in English education skills of the 227 countries evaluated by the U.S. Education Testing Service, but aims to improve its ranking through the new plan.

This actually IS worse than it looks....Did somebody forget that Koreans spend MORE on English education than any other nation in the world? (couldn't find the link but I think it was in the Korea Herald some time ago, help anyone) So that middle level ranking is right alongside of countries that have almost NO access to English education.
He said to date, Korea’s English-language education has been out of balance, focusing too much on reading comprehension and grammar and not enough on listening and speaking skills.

That's the first thing he said that makes sense.
The plan seeks to upgrade the skills of English teachers through improved training, with the government running immersion-training courses for teachers. One thousand English teachers will participate in a 6-month course every year, including a one-month stay overseas.

Sounds great! that's 1000 out of how many? Will they be crammed into a dorm on some college campus in BFAmerica where they will speak Korean to each other when they are not being forced to speak English? And which 1000 will they send? The ones who can already speak English the best? or will they take the ones who need it the most...the low scorers?
`` The year 2015 would be the last year for English teachers who cannot conduct classes in English. We expect social pressure to force out `incompetent’ teachers,’’ said Kim.

Something that should have happened years ago...let's just hope its not too little too late.
Many teachers are skeptical over whether a 6-month immersion course would work. They say that the current English teachers training program doesn’t function well.

Again...look for the teachers to complain about the program and kill it before it even gets off the ground.
``Many senior teachers are reluctant to attend the training programs.

I've taught some of these teacher training programs. The 'senior' teachers have been using Korean to teach English for so long that they just can't imagine any other way. That coupled with the fact that many of them can't make a single error free utterence in the target language makes it unlikely that they would be interested in embarrasing themselves in front of their juniors at a teacher training program.
Most trainees of the courses are young teachers and they regard the courses as wiling away time. Do you think this is useful?’’ said an English teacher who requested anonymity.

This is, of course, one person's opinion but I would venture to say that most of the teachers who feel they are 'wiling' are the one's who can't and don't really want to speak English.
The plan also calls for changes in educating English-language teachers, requiring colleges to teach English teachers in English. It also calls for every middle school to have a native English-speaking teacher by 2010.

If all of the Korean teacher are going to conduct classes totally in English, I don't see exactly why you would even need to hire more barbarian, unqualified, miscreant foreigner teachers (smell that....sarcasm...yum) to cover your proverbial ass. OH...maybe they just want to hire them until 2015 and then let them go?
The government also wants to change the curriculum to include new textbooks, teaching English only in English and changing testing techniques to give more weight to listening and speaking skills.

Good idea...the current texts are crap!!in dire need of revision.
It also wants to reduce the gap in English proficiency between children of the rich and the poor. Under the plan, English-only zones _ similar to English villages _ will be established in rural schools to offer poorer children more opportunities, including courses and materials using satellite TV and the Internet.

A noble plan worthy of exploring...of course by the time they implement all of this country schools will need to start teaching courses in Vietnamese, Tagalog and Chinese.
The plan also calls for gradually increasing the recruitment of native English-speaking teachers. Starting next year with 1,300, it will increase the number of foreign teachers by 500 every year up to a maximum of 2,900 by 2010.

However some question how well the Korean teachers and foreign teachers will cooperate. ``Native English-speaking teachers are not only for the benefit of students but also Korean teachers. But the reality is different when the foreign teachers attend the classes, many Korean teachers stay out of class and take a rest,’’ said Park Won-young, president of Korea Secondary English Teacher’s Association

Translation: Many Korean teachers feel embarassed by their lack of English skills and anyway don't want to deal with the strange behavior of the barbarian in their class so they just prefer to let the foreigner teach the class alone and take a much needed rest.
Rep. Chung pointed out that the English Program In Korea (EPIK) for native English-speaking teachers is unrealistic.
``I question how many foreign teachers who can satisfy EPIK requirements, would come to Korea,’’ he said.

That depends on a lot of factors like how well they are treated, paid, housed and respected as well as how well their 'handlers' keep their promises (e.g. contract).
Overall, I think this program is just a lot of smokescreen to make some politician look good and it has little chance of coming to fruition under the current Teacher's Union Educational environment where it will be met with chest beating, air sucking and weeping and gnashing of teeth.


Jon Allen said...

Lost Nomad mentioned the amount spent on English.
and had a link to the chosun article
and still....

fencerider said...

That was the day AFTER i posted this article:)