The school-wide policy of mandating a designated number of English courses as a graduation requirement has been at the center of student complaints.
According to Article 48, Clause 5 of the school regulations, it is stated that undergraduate students enrolled at Ewha must take at least 18 credits of English lectures to graduate. This clause was added to the school rulebooks on Nov. 20, 2013.
This specific clause poses a different problem to each student population; degree-seeking Korean and international students and exchange students. Ewha Voice conducted an English version and Korean version of the same questionnaire via Google Forms in October for a month. 100 students responded on the current system of English lectures and the aforementioned school regulations.
For Korean students, opinions regarding English lectures largely varied according to their English fluency. Among Korean students, 64.7 percent of the students marked their English proficiency to be four or five out of five. Despite many Korean students considering their English ability to be eligible to take an English lecture, their main issue came from the professor’s level of English.
“I often had a hard time understanding the lecture because of professors’ English,” said Lee So-un, a freshman from Scranton College. “I also witnessed cases where international students had a hard time because some exams included partial Korean although it was an English lecture.”
On the other hand, some students were very satisfied with the English lectures provided by the school.
“English lectures I have taken were of high-quality and professors were always helpful,” said Saule Batrymbet, a sophomore from the Division of International Studies(DIS).
The school rule that professors must provide at least one English lecture per semester during their first 10 years at Ewha is at the center of many long-standing problems faced by the school. This is because this rule applies to every instructor regardless of their English proficiency. This issue was also a key area of contention during the most recent school presidential elections. The then-candidate and current president Kim Hei-sook, promised to ease the strict enforcement regulations on professors, and apply an “incentive system” as opposed to a mandate system. However, as of now, serious revisions to the status quo are yet to be made.
“When professors reach the end of their 10 year obligation of giving English lectures, there is a sense of relief among Korean professors who feel uncomfortable lecturing in English,” said a professor from Scranton College.
School administration yet to give alternatives
For the majority of exchange students who study at Ewha for one to two semesters, the diversity of English courses was not as problematic as those of international students. Nonetheless, the lack of availability of English lectures has become problematic for full-time international students.
According to the free responses given in the English version of the survey for the international students, even in departments such as DIS where all courses are offered in English, several students pointed out that by their third year they had simply “run out of” English courses to take.
Currently, the only agreement between the student body and the school is that 18 credits of English lectures are set as a graduation requirement. 67 percent of the student respondents answered that this graduation requirement should remain or that they do not have a strong opinion about it. Students generally agree that having mandatory English lectures can be beneficial to some degree. However, with the school administration failing to fix related revisions efficiently, the burden on both Korean students and international students is only growing. A systematic, co-operative and co-ordinated response from the student body and administration will be necessary in the future.