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MOEHRD Plan Generates Mixed Reactions

Posted April. 10, 2003 22:23,   


Schools and parents have begun to respond to the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development` plan to change the evaluation standards of art and physical training subjects, from the existing method of giving scores to description of individual capabilities or a pass-or-fail system. Some hailed the decision but some others disapproved the idea.

▽Heavy Spending on Private Lessons

MOEHRD`s decision came as parents spent staggering amounts of money giving their children private lessons on art and physical training.

According to the ministry`s statistics, parents spent 7.1 trillion won on private tutoring for their children in 2000, which is equal to 1.4% of the gross domestic product. Of the total, 52%, or 3.7 trillion won, was spent for little children attending primary schools. In that category, private lessons on art and physical training subjects account for 41%, or 1.5 trillion.

Private lessons were especially booming in some rich districts in Seoul such as Gangnam, aimed to boost school scores.

Since high schools specializing in science and foreign languages are required to put more emphasis on school performances, students attending such schools are more concerned about art and physical training subjects.

There are various kinds of private lessons such as penalty kicks, free throws, sketch, drawing, painting, piano, violin, singing and tosses.

▽Mixed Reactions

˝One of my children is doing well in liberal art and social science, but he lags behind his classmates when it comes to art and physical training, which often gets me worried,˝ said Gang, a 40-year-old mother of a middle school and a high school student. ˝I am supporting the plan since it will help children learn about art and sports instead of focusing on getting scores.˝

˝I think parents will have to even more resort to private lessons since the ministry says schools have to evaluate individual capabilities,˝ said 44-year-old mother Park.

˝We see a gap between what policymakers aims for and what is really happening in schools,˝ said Han Man-hee, principal at Daechung Middle School in Seoul. ˝If the government makes a policy decision seeing only the one side, the whole education of art and physical training might collapse.˝

˝Students are already concentrating too much on languages and mathematics,˝ said Jun Yong-gak, a 43-year-old art teacher at Samgaksan Middle School in Seoul. ˝If we stop giving scores, students will further neglect studying those subjects.˝

▽Private Institutes on Alert

˝Most of students attending private institutes for art and physical training subjects are little children and high school students wishing to major art or sports,˝ an official at the Federation of Private Institutes pointed out. ˝Even if the government changes the evaluation standard, parents will spend more on languages and math, therefore maintaining about the same level of spending.˝

˝With the economy in bad shape, parents have already begun to cut down spending on private lessons, while building rental fees are rising,˝ said Min Sung-gi, who runs a private institute of art in Gangnam area. ˝The decision will also hurt young college students teaching children as well as private institutes.˝

▽Experts Speak Out

˝The rub is that all the students are required to learn art and sports and are subject to tests whether they are interested in those subjects or not.˝ said park Bum-hoon, director at the Korean Traditional Music Association. ˝Since we need to give children a chance to learn about many different things, however, it will be better for schools to test only basic skills and let those interested in art and sports continue learning.˝

˝Instead of only resorting to teachers` judgment, we might let students evaluate other students in part,” said Kim Jung Myung-shin, head of a civic organization for education in Gangnam area. ˝By referring to 30% of peer evaluation, we will be able to improve reliability of the system.˝

In-Chul Lee Seong-Chul Hong inchul@donga.com sungchul@donga.com