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Native Speakers to Teach English

Posted January. 12, 2006 03:01,   


About 20 education-related government agencies, including the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, unveiled yesterday the second round of a basic plan for national human resources development, which the government will drive forward by investing 51 trillion won from this year through 2010.

Early English education and change in the existing semester system proposed in the plan are attracting attention with a huge impact on society as a whole as well as the education sector.

English Education Starting from the First Grade-

Thanks to classes focusing on English starting from the third grade of elementary school and English-speaking programs accounting for more than half of all TV programs, 77 percent of Finland’s population speaks English fluently. This is also an important factor of the country’s national competitiveness which ranks top in the world.

Realizing the need for early English education in the global era, the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development introduced English education starting from the third grade of elementary school in 1997. Currently, third and fourth graders take a 40-minute English class once a week, while fifth and sixth graders have classes twice a week.

However, some have repeatedly pointed out that beginning English education from the third grade in elementary school is too late and that it leads children to lose interest in English because most parents have their kids learn the language as kindergarteners through private education.

The ministry believes that English education in elementary school is effective and intends to expand it, but it will conduct a pilot education of first and second graders first because of potential side-effects.

In fact, about 30 percent of the country’s elementary schools are teaching English to their first and second graders through extracurricular classes regardless of the regular English class for the third graders.

Also, the ministry is planning to deploy 2,900 English native assistant teachers to all middle schools by 2010 and conduct a pilot-base “English immersion education” which teaches mathematics and science in English in elementary, middle, and high schools in the Special Economic Zone and Jeju Free International City starting from 2008.

A Reform of the School System-

In response to low birth rates, the aging society, and globalization, the ministry decided to establish a public forum for a reform of the school system in the first half of this year and devise a comprehensive plan to push ahead with the school system reform by 2007. It is planning to change the existing semester system which starts in March into a September semester system.

The Korea Educational Development Institute proposed last year to change the 6-3-3-4 system into the 5-3-4-4 system.

Kim young-sik, vice minister of education, said, “School age population and working age population are on the decline, but people start working at a later age than other countries. Against this backdrop, a reform of the school system is inevitable,” adding, “As this issue cannot be delayed, we will come up with a reform measure by 2010 with a firm determination.”

Gaining Credits in the Military-

Considering that 85 percent of military servicemen are attending or graduated from a university or community college, the ministry plans to revise related laws to establish a system in which they can perform military duties while studying and allow them to gain up to six credits in a year through e-running.

Furthermore, the ministry also intends to change the transfer regulation which admits a three-year community college graduate as a junior of a four-year university into one that accepts such graduate as a senior. Under the new regulation, graduates from three-year colleges majoring in nursing science are expected to suffer fewer disadvantages in getting a job in U.S. hospitals or in salary.

In-Chul Lee inchul@donga.com