The Marmot's Hole

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Tag: education

Testing For Money Spent – Why Standardized Testing is Rigged

here_I_amI have a daughter who went to Kindergarten for several years and public school here in Seoul for eight years. She is smart, however, she had problems when she did her big exams. Her weekly scores were fair but the grades on the larger tests were horrible. I didn’t yell at her but her mother worked with her on some subjects, I bought science books and hired a tutor for her math and her scores improved over time.

This last January, I let her go to live with my sister in Nebraska (her aunt who shares the same birthday even) and after two months there, her scores went from a 56 (here) to a 99 percent!

I thought maybe American schools are teaching easier than Korean schools, which in many cases seems to be true since her middle-school classes would introduce subjects that I only got in high school myself, however I then ran across an article from the Atlantic that maintains standardized tests, in America, aren’t actual tests of knowledge but are branded products produced by textbook companies, and getting a good score depends on whether you bought the right books to study. It seems that many schools here in Korea pull their testing material straight from textbooks here, that have a vested interest in making $$$ and some teachers do get gifts from certain publishers, so . . . it turns out I have a smart daughter after all who will not end up working in Wallmart. I only wonder and worry about her friends here and so many other bright Korean kids that have to labour and suffer under this deliberately weighted variable, not to mention the high household debt 1 2 3 here in Korea – much of which is due to educational expenses to help these kids keep up and to study at the *right* places or the very high rate of suicide (the number one reason for death between the ages of 10 and 30) (cite), due to the stress of living. How much income is lost to average Korean households due to this system and how long will the system function before it flips over and sinks?


A new opinion piece in the NY Times discusses the stresses upon Korean kids in being driven by their parents (if not mom) to excel in grades:

. . . She (mother) did not want me to suffer like my brother, who had a chest pain that doctors could not diagnose and an allergy so severe he needed to have shots at home.
I was fortunate that my mother recognized the problem and had the means to take me abroad. Most South Korean children’s parents are the main source of the unrelenting pressure put on students.

The opinion piece is here.

The Empire Strikes Back – Final Chapter in the Revised History of the KTU?


The Ministry of Labor effectively has disbanded the Korea Teachers and Education Workers’ Union (KTU), informing the 76 teachers that work full-time for the former union that they must return to the classroom (cite and cite).  You may remember the KTU from various threads herein, such as these various threads that are too numerous to list, however, there are others who express concern that this action of the current administration is going to far in pursuing an old-school approach to solving problems by any means possible.

SAT’s scheduled for this Saturday suddenly canceled due to leaked questions

My deepest sympathy to all you hard-working students out there who have been busting your butts getting ready for the SAT’s this Saturday. All of you have by now received the email saying they’re cancelled.

Apparently, there have been more incidents of leaked questions –this even after the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office raided eight private academies in Gangnam in February.

“Because a number of test-takers have likely already been exposed to these test materials, we had no choice but to cancel the May administration to ensure the validity of SAT and SAT Subject Test scores that are reported to colleges and universities and to protect the integrity of the test administration process for all test takers,” said the SAT College Board and local administrators ETS.

Once again, the name Jeffery Sohn keeps popping up.

One of the eight cram schools that was raided in February was established by Jeffery Sohn, 42, a well-known “star lecturer” who was previously indicted for the leaking of SAT questions.

At that time Sohn was alleged to have obtained a copy of the SAT test taken in an earlier time zone and then uploading the questions on a web community page so that his students could prepare answers prior to taking the exam.

Sohn, who was ridden roughshod by the Korean press, was able to establish another school long before a Korean court acquitted him in March of this year.

Regarding their ruling, the Seoul Central District Court said, “The testimonies of the people who allegedly gave (Sohn) the questions lack credibility and consistency” adding that there is also a possibility that someone other than the Sohn could have posted the questions on the website.

Is this simply a case of Sohn twice being in the wrong place at the wrong time? And why was such weight put on the testimony of alleged fellow conspirators? Or, was there pressure applied by the hagwons—one of whom reportedly kidnapped Sohn and severely beat him in 2009 when he tried to abandon their employ?

One wonders if we are still even talking about education or the criminal underworld.

You gotta feel for all the good kids out there. All of their applications to study abroad will from now on be combed over exhaustively.

 You can read the rest here. Including the interesting proposition that one form of cheating, namely plagiarism, might not really be that at all –but rather a cultural thing.

So I take it the classroom will be a homosexuality-free zone?

As we mentioned earlier, Seoul education chief-elect Moon Yong-lin wants to change the student human rights ordinance promulgated by Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education earlier this year.

As you can see from the photo used in the link, one of the beefs conservatives have had with the ordinance is that it includes provisions to protect the rights of homosexual students. In his televised debate with left-wing candidate Lee Su-ho—former head of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union—on Dec 6, Moon said about these provisions, “Schools need to teach that (homosexuality) mustn’t take place in schools; they mustn’t teach that you have the right (to be homosexual).”

Well, that’s frank.

Chosun Ilbo learns that behind asshat students stand asshat parents

Ye Olde Chosun reports that behind violent and rude students, you’ll often find violent and senseless parents, and that violence against teachers by school parents is growing serious. You now have parents visiting schools to beat up teachers who admonish their children and parents who conduct background investigations into the personal lives of teachers to harass and threaten them, even if teachers say most parents respect teachers and actively cooperate with them for their children’s education.

In one high school in Seoul, Teacher A made a girl stand in the back of the class for 10 minutes for not doing a performance assessment. The next day, the girl’s dad came to the school and found Teacher A in the staff room. He suggested the two go somewhere quiet to talk. They went into an empty room, where the dad suddenly locked the door and began beating the teacher with his umbrella, angrily telling the teacher there was no reason to punish his daughter as the performance assessment was not important. The teacher banged on the wall, and his fellow teachers next door came in and rescued him.

There are reportedly countless incidents of parents protesting to teachers or threatening to file complaints with the education departments or Cheong Wa Dae over slight things.

In March, the parents and grandmother of a girl visited the staff room of a middle school in Daejeon. The previous day, the head disciplinarian of the school wrote the girl up for hitting another student. The girl’s family “mobilized.” The protested—in the staff room, mind you—that the girl had fought with another girl but the teacher had given only their daughter a write-up. They demanded that the head disciplinarian apologize to their daughter in front of the students.

For an English teacher at a middle school in the education-mad Gangnam district, test time almost drives him neurotic. After midterms last year, he got a call from a parent who insisted that an answer her child had given was correct. The parent, who lived three years in the United States, swore at the teacher, telling him that the child’s answer was something Americans sometimes say, too, and that a teacher who had neither lived in America nor knew this well should not be giving grades.

The teacher said that in areas where there’s a lot of educational competition (like Gangnam), there are a lot of parents with high educational backgrounds, and that they sometimes use their knowledge or positions to disrespect or threaten teachers. The teacher said he didn’t hope to be respected like teachers in the past, but just wanted to have his basic human rights respected.

At an elementary school in Incheon, a teacher made a fourth-grade student stand for a couple of minutes for seriously making noise and playing around in class. The next day, the child’s parents threatened the teacher, accusing the teacher of acting high-handedly for nothing. They called him a “gangster teacher,” and said if he didn’t write a self-reflection letter, they would take legal action.

Marmot’s Note: In case you haven’t been reading the papers over the last year, the conservative press is unhappy with what they see as the breakdown of order in the Korean classroom, and really unhappy about progressive Seoul school superintendent Kwak No-hyun’s push to boost students’ “human rights” (it’s a shame they don’t translate what the protest banner in the photo actually says, namely, that the students human rights ordinance would make elementary school students gay), including a ban on corporal punishment.

As Dr. House says, I guess the stereotype exists for a reason

Shocking headline in the Korea Times today:

Korean students outpacing Americans in science, math

I know. I couldn’t believe it either.

Anyway, from the KT:

U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday lauded South Korean students for outperforming American students thanks to the nation’s heavy investment in education.

“South Korean children are outpacing our kids in math and science,” Obama said in a speech at George Washington University to unveil his fiscal policy centering on budget deficit cuts while maintaining heavy investment in education. “They’re scrambling to figure out how they put more money into education.”

Now, not to take anything away from Korea’s investment into education, but I’m guessing Koreans’ performance in math and science probably has more to do with culture and educational priorities than investment. I’m also going to guess that you could put Koreans in the American school system and they’ll still outpace American kids in math and science. I’ll even venture that you can spend all the money you like on non-performing schools and test scores won’t rise without first building a culture that supports educational excellence.

Yet Another Reason Why Late Hakwon Hours Do Not Help

A short delay (thirty minutes to one hour) in school start time is associated with improvements to pupils’ motivation, concentration levels, mood, health and a reduction in children’s fatigue and stress levels.  (article)

Goodbye and Good Riddance . . .

It seems that, after more than a few years of reading one dismal story after another about the political antics of political leftists in the KTEWU (Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union), 134 of them will be fired.  Per the Joongang Ilbo “The two unions (KTU and KTEWU) said they will launch a full-fledged fight against the government” which would be the first honest statement, coming from the KTEWU, in a long time.

The Empire Strikes Back — at Last

The ministry of Education finally has begun to take action against the political agitation on the part of KTEWU (Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union) members by firing people.  This follows a raid on the head offices of these pack of losers as well.

Gyopo out to reform DC schools

Despite having one of the highest rates of spending per student among large school systems in the United States, the Washington D.C. public school system (how can I put it gently?) sucks.

The city’s relatively new (appointed last year) chancellor, Korean-American Michelle Rhee, is trying to change that.

Her appointment last year raised some eyebrows:

Her appointment stunned the city. Rhee, then 37, had no experience running a school, let alone a district with 46,000 students that ranks last in math among 11 urban school systems. When [Mayor Adrian] Fenty called her, she was running a nonprofit called the New Teacher Project, which helps schools recruit good teachers. Most problematic of all, Rhee is not from Washington. She is from Ohio, and she is Korean American in a majority-African-American city. “I was,” she says now, “the worst pick on the face of the earth.”

Her biggest reform so far is the ongoing process of removing ineffective teachers and administrators from the system, that has naturally gotten her off of the Christmas card list of the teacher’s union, some city officials and at least one blogger.

Perhaps someone in the ancestral homeland would like to hire her to clean things up in hagwonland.

Special School IDs for Korean Kids with Naturally Brown or Curly Hair

Commenter Brian on the Open Thread posted a link to Korea Beat translation of a story from the Hankyorehon some schools requiring students with naturally brown or curly hair to show proof that these features are natural and carry special IDs, called 자연머리 확인증, or Confirmation of Natural Hair.

Recently schools have been requiring students with naturally colored or curly hair to obtain proof. Students with naturally-colored hair must get confirmation form their parents and teacher and keep the proof with them when they go to school. A large number of schools in Seoul, including Ilshin girls’ High School, Gyeonggi Girls’ High School, Daewon Girls’ High School, Dongmyeong Girls’ High School, and Seomun Girls’ High School, issue the ID cards.

The Hankyoreh story at Daum shows an image of a special ID for a girl with naturally brown hair.  Is this for real?

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