Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ohmynews article on new elementary school English curriculum

On March 23, Ohmynews published a lengthy article about the new 6th grade elementary school English curriculum, of which a portion is below. One wonders if the reporter was ordered to bash the Lee Myung-bak government and got lost along the way.
Memorize 520 words without teaching how to read?
[Curriculum full of holes, Part 2] How to evaluate, when public English education involves only memorizing words?

In February, new textbooks were handed out to fifth grade children, and the 6th grade English textbooks had arrived. The children who received the books were angry.

"Are we university students? Why is this book so thick?"

As it is a subject that is already burdensome, adding a book that was thicker and heavier than the book they used last year made them instantly angry.

"The teacher said that in 6th grade English classes will increase to three hours a week. So during vacation we should give up our time to properly review the things we learned in grade five in order to be able to follow the 6th grade material."

The book is also very thick and feels like a university textbook. The lessons take up 200 pages, but with the supplementary material it is almost 600 pages. Now it's thick and there are complaints, but from March when classes start, the amount of English being studied, as well as the time, will increase, and because of this, how much worry will be caused?

▲ This year's 5th and 6th grade government designated English textbooks. Class time will increase to three hours per week and the textbook, with class material added to the end of the book, is much heavier and thicker than previous books. This year the textbook will be used for one year, and next year will see a switch to screened textbooks.

This year English study will increase from two to three hours per week for grades 5 and 6. The Lee Myung-bak government has strengthened public English education in order to reduce private education costs and improve English skills, and for this reason, in 2008 English classes were increased by one hour per week for elementary school students in grades 3-6.

For this reason, in many elementary schools across the country, the number of class hours has increased, and even in elementary schools 7 class period-days have made an appearance. (Because they are studying English?). This year in the case of grade 6, there is criticism that there has only been an increase in the amount of class time and supplementary materials, and actual endemic problems with English education cannot be completely solved.

With 102 hours lost, a mere 6 hours is a solution?

Since last year this year's grade six students have studied the 7th curriculum, but this year, learning English has led to a loss of 102 hours of study time from the 2008 revised curriculum. Children in grades 3, 4, and 5 had studied English for 1, 1, and 2 hours per week respectively (or 136 hours over 34 weeks), but this year the curriculum mandates that English be taught for 2, 2, and 3 hours per week each (238 hours). Therefore, if the 6th grade textbook cannot be learned correctly, extra, remedial study will be needed.

To remedy the 6th grade students' loss of studying, the education ministry has made 6 hours of review material. Teachers have also been sent promotional material. But how can the loss of 102 hours be solved with only 6 hours? The contents are almost the same as the those from the 5th grade. In comparison to the new 5th grade textbook, reading and writing have been pieced together and slightly edited. In other words, the 5th grade's 16 chapters have been compressed into 6 hours.

[...] [A page of revision material is shown.]

But will this 6 hours of review really solve the study deficit of 6th grade children? Can the ministry of education's boast that by not receiving private education and through English class alone elementary school level speaking, reading and writing can be flawlessly completed? If this is possible, there would be no need for the Lee Myung-bak government to work so hard at increasing English class hours.
The article goes on (and on) to complain about the textbook, but I'll stop there.

First of all is this sentence: "The lessons take up 200 pages, but with the supplementary material it is almost 600 pages."

The lessons do take up 200 pages, but saying that the supplementary material takes up 'almost' 400 pages is either a lie or the reporter can't count. There are 24 pages of grade 5 review and 105 pages of supplementary material (though all of these pages have material on only one side, so the number could be said to be less than 55). By page numbering, however, the book is 230 pages - not "almost 600 pages." It's here you start to wonder if the article is straw man hatchet job.

The problem above may well be, however, that the reporter can't count. I mean, the part about adding up all of the class hours of grades 3-5 under the old system (136 hours) and this year's system (238 hours) and subtracting to get the difference (102 hours) and then saying that this should somehow be made up to this year's grade 6 students makes no sense at all. Especially complaining that there's only six hours of review; should there be 102 hours of review, then? There are lots of things that could be criticized about the curriculum, but not having 102 hours of review isn't really one of them. The books shown above are pretty much the same as the old ones, except that instead of spending four classes on each unit they now spend six.

I especially like the bit at the end saying that if the kids were able to learn the curriculum, the government wouldn't need to increase class hours, as if the increase is a sign of weakness.

Strange. Very strange.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

thanks for bringing this article to my attention, very interesting! I teach 5th grade and use this new textbook and while it is better than the sixth grade text I used last semester, and nowhere near 600 pages, it still is not useful in my class other than by setting up the framework for the subjects we cover. I think I have different issues with the text than the writer of this article but my opinion of the new curriculum is about the same..