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Korea’s Basic Science Education Needs Improvement

Posted July. 09, 2007 03:03,   


A student raised his hand in a first-year class at a prestigious Korean engineering college.

Pointing to the symbol “∫,” the student asked, “What is that?” The professor was flabbergasted, finally realizing that he was not joking.

The journal Science reported the incredible story on the stark reality of the country’s science education in its July 6 issue. The journal quoted Lee Deok-hwan, a chemistry professor at Sogang University, as saying, “Korea’s science education is in an unprecedented crisis.”

Korea’s top university needs supplementary classes for science-

The journal said in its special article on science and engineering education among the world’s universities that two-thirds of Korea’s high schoolers go to college without learning science in school, and that universities even have to give supplementary science classes for them.

For instance, one out of five freshmen at Seoul National University, the country’s top university, is having difficulty understanding what they learn from class, according to the journal. Only 39 out of 243 science and engineering freshmen at SNU who wanted to take the intensive physics course, passed the physics test in March.

Under these circumstances, the university has come up with a basic science education course reform plan in which freshmen are divided and taught according to their math and science performances.

Excessive government control undermining basic science education-

The journal also said that Korea is in an odd situation in which it has more than doubled its R&D investment over the past five years, but that it has dismissed science and math education.

The reason is poor basic science education. While excessively controlling the content of textbooks and classes, the government has failed to stir imaginations in students.

Furthermore, it reported the recent developments in the country’s scientific community, including its demand for education course reform, to prevent a further undermining of science education.

The journal added that poor basic science education could undermine the quality of important social discussions related to science, including issues of radioactive waste and high-speed trains.

Japan and China value science-

The special article focuses on the science and engineering education of universities in 11 countries.

Keio University of Japan stresses convergence of academic disciplines and education, assigning even its law and liberal arts majors to analyze DNA in its labs.

Southeast University of China strengthened English education for physics majors to have discussions with global researchers and to boost the global competitiveness of its students.

By contrast, regarding Korea, the magazine highlighted basic problems, including high school students shunning studying science and engineering in college and the lowering standards of college freshmen. A Korean scientist said, “It seems that Science was surprised at such an odd situation in Korea, which ranked among the top in many recent science and math Olympiads.”

The journal interviewed many Korean scientists, including Dean of Natural Sciences at SNU Oh Se-jung, Korean Mathematical Society Chairman Kim Do-han, Sogang University professor Lee Deok-hwan and Yonsei University professor Min Kyung-chan.