President-elect Lee Myung-bak is rolling up his sleeves to reform the nation’s English education policy. According to Lee, the current English learning system has proven to be so flawed that despite 10 years of public English education, and countless years in private schooling, most students fall far short of attaining a reasonable degree of fluency.
On that account, the president-elect`s transition team recently announced a series of measures designed to enhance English education. Such measures include conducting high school English classes all in English, increasing the amount of those classes, and establishing a learning-friendly environment for English. Indeed, the president should be offering students opportunities to better their practical English speaking abilities. But is his plan likely to be effective in addressing the real challenges facing English education in our country?
In order to meet the rising demand for English teachers, the incoming administration plans to hire 23,000 additional teachers who can teach in English. Those targeted for hiring include former diplomats, foreigners, people who have studied at colleges in English-speaking countries, English majors and holders of master’s degrees and teaching certificates, not necessarily graduates from Colleges of Education.
Fierce debate over this plan is also ongoing on the Ewha portal bulletin board?which reflects the close connection of the issue to the large number of Ewha students who plan on becoming English teachers.
As many students noted in their bulletin-board comments, it seems illogical to evaluate the quality of English teachers merely based on the English skills of the applicants. Even from our own short-lived experiences with private tutoring during our university years, it is clear that knowing a lot oneself and teaching efficiently are two different things. Moreover, aside from teaching English, teachers have the obligation to help students build their characters and social values in order for students to successfully integrate into society.
Thus, it is a matter of course that students who have been majoring in English Education or preparing for a teachers’ license examination for several years are enraged at this reckless transformation of government policy which plans to give opportunities to people with as little education as a two-week TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificate of qualification.
The real point behind reform in English education should not be producing a soaring number of English teachers who speak like native speakers, but providing a variety of learning tools and a comfortable environment for general public, many of whom do not need or expect to suddenly speak English like a native anyway. But compulsorily increasing the classes and requiring high school English teachers to suddenly conduct classes in English will do nothing more than aggravating the current pressure of learning English. It goes without saying that students would face no chance of building practical speaking skills when they cannot even enjoy the procedure of learning English.
Plus, the new administration should reexamine its reform policy of English education to come up with English teachers who can truly contribute to heightening the quality of Korean English education system. The criteria for selection of English teachers should not be overly tilted to the oral fluency one holds, but also other various factors that test the person’s temperament in teaching itself.