May 20, 2010 12:29
Students in Korea studied math for eight hours and 55 minutes a week as of 2003, putting them in second place in the OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) with a score of 542 points in the subject, data from the National Youth Policy Institute show. Students in Finland came first with a score of 544 points, but they studied math for only four hours and 22 minutes a week.
The reason Korean students ranked lower despite studying more is because their education focuses on repetitive learning of standardized problems. Koreans lagged behind Finns in creative problem-solving abilities. Education focused on rote memorization also ends up diminishing interest in learning. When it comes to interest in learning math, Korea ranked 31st in the world, and in science 55th.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology on Wednesday told the presidential office it will overhaul school textbooks by shaving off 20 percent of their content. In Korean language texts, sections on literature and grammar will be deleted, but those dedicated to speaking, reading, listening and writing will be retained, and literature and grammar will be included in these sections. "We will change the style of education from force-feeding massive amounts of information to one that allows students to use their creativity in solving problems," the ministry said.
In the 2006 PISA, Korean students ranked first in reading comprehension, fourth in math and 11th in science, coming second overall behind Finland again. That is an impressive performance. But Koreans were studying for seven hours and 50 minutes a day, either at school, at private crammers and at home, which was much longer than Japan (five hours and 21 minutes), Germany (five hours and two minutes) and England (three hours and 49 minutes) as of 2003. Thus although they scored high, Korean students were being taught inefficiently.
It is therefore high time to change the method. The ministry is doing the right thing by focusing on creativity. If Korea's education system, which U.S. President Barack Obama has praised more than once, is able to inspire in students a real interest in learning, the country could rank at the top of the world in terms of educational quality.
Japan ended up lowering the quality of education by reducing the number of classes while aiming to get students to become more creative. Korea must not make the same mistake.
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