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Mistakes Found in English Textbooks

Posted May. 06, 2006 03:06,   


“The boy, whom was thought to be absent-minded, really had a very active mind.”

This is a sentence from a high school English textbook from publisher A. In this sentence, the relative pronoun that indicates “the boy” should be changed from “whom” to “who.”

Numerous errors were found in high school English textbooks that Korean high school students are learning from.

Even in the example listed by Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development in its textbook guidelines, such as: “Open you book”; “Would you like some drink?”; and “I think her very smart,” numerous mistakes could be found that could be identified even by students scoring in the mid-range level in the College Entrance Examinations.

Rep. Lee Joo-ho of the Grand National Party and member of the Education Committee of the National Assembly found 30 mistakes after having native college professors and graduate students who completed high school and college in the United States examine five out of 15 high school English textbooks.

Strange expressions-

In the high school English textbooks, there were a number of mistakes, including the mismatch of singular and plural forms, repeated expressions, and inaccurate phrases.

In publisher B’s book, “heard” should be changed to “listened to” in the phrase “Have you ever heard Beethoven’s symphony?” “Hear” is when one is not paying attention, while “listen” is when the listener is focusing on the object.

Word arrangements and usage were also problematic.

The problems of profit equalization-

The Korea Authorized Textbook Association, where publishers that produce textbooks are required to register, has enacted the profit equalization regulation since 2000 where all the companies receive profits equally, regardless of the number of books sold.

During 2003 to 2005, publisher C earned 23 million won in sales for English textbooks, but received more than twice that amount, 48 million won. During the same period, publisher D earned 1.1 billion in sales for English textbooks, but received the same amount of money as publisher C, or 48 million won.

Lee said, “The Ministry of Education installed this regulation to block overheated competition,” but added, “Publishers aim to sell supplementary textbooks rather than striving to enhance the quality of the main textbooks.”

Other textbooks also face problems.

The profit equalization regulation is applicable to all subjects, excluding state published textbooks such as Korean, Korean history, and Ethics.

Because of this, the corrections are not made in a timely manner, and the statistics listed in the texts are often outdated.

The National Statistical Office announces new statistics ever year, but the publishers do not have an incentive to change the data, as it would not result in a higher level of profit from the increased number of sales.

A source from the Korea Authorized Textbook Association said, “When the Seventh Education Course ends in 2009, we plan to proportion total profits by taking respective profits according to sales into consideration as well as applying the equalization regulation.”

Inspection rules should be altered-

The publishers say that “it’s true that textbooks that have passed inspections are more lax in looking for mistakes or content,” and added, “the inspection rules should also be corrected along with profit equalization.”

A source from publisher E said, “The Ministry of Education limits the theme of the texts down to the wording, and while we alter the text according to the regulations we make a lot of mistakes.”

Professor Martin Edley at the Victoria International Language Institute of Hanyang University’s said, “Awkward expressions and grammatical mistakes should all be corrected,” and added “it’s important to teach the phrases that native speakers normally use.”

A source from the Ministry of Education said, “We will simplify the correction process after altering the education plans next February.”

Jae-Myoung Lee egija@donga.com achim@donga.com