Friday, August 9, 2013

Knowledge is not Everything

A college professor who has extensively studied foreign methods of education, in a recent issue of the Peace Weekly, applies what he has learned to evaluate the Korean educational system. He is now teaching a number of students from Asian countries who have enrolled in one of his courses. He has noted, he says, the differences in how students from different countries respond to the demands of the school environment. There is something distinct about each country's way of educating its students, and he focuses on how it's done here in Korea. 

He begins by acknowledging that Korean students are second to none when it comes to intellectual ability. From the time they were children, they have been encouraged to study hard and to excel in any intellectual situation. Though this is a source of pride to Koreans, there is another and less positive side to this intellectual ability, he says, and many of our Korean students can be said to fall within the less positive side of this divide. Because they have heard from a very early age the importance of studying hard, they have a tendency to gauge every thing from this perspective, and he blames their parents, and the present culture generally, for this unbalanced tendency. It is only natural, then, he goes on to say, that our students have 'tunnel vision' when it comes to dealing with the larger issues of life.

The professor reminds us that many of the brightest students in the world desire to go to Harvard Law School but, as is well-known, intellectual brilliance alone will not assure admittance to the school. And sometimes parents are the problem. He mentions a high-school student who had done remarkable work on a school project. Although he was selected by the government to go overseas, his parents would not give permission because of upcoming college entrance exams. He says that in another country the fact that he was selected to go overseas for a workshop would have guaranteed him a place in a college of his choice.  

When the emphasis is only on studies, we lock ourselves in a box and can see nothing outside the box. Our school marks are not the same, he reminds us, as the marks that come from life.

Another problem the professor sees is that students often fail to be concerned with other students, content in their solitary struggle for good marks. He tells us about a lecture he gave at a prestigious college in Korea. When he asked the students to come up for the lecture material, everyone rushed to the front to make sure they would not be left out--though there was plenty for everyone--even pushing aside a classmate in a wheel chair, as the students rushed to the front of the room. This riotous scenario, he points out, can serve as a self-portrait of the competitive educational system we have built here in Korea.

Using the words of Pope Francis to the young in Brazil, he says that Korean youth, along with the older generation, have raised to idol status money, success, power and pleasure, and have been mesmerized by them. It comes down to asking ourselves, he says, the following question: Can we place these legitimate goals in their rightful secondary position in life rather than as our primary goals?

He ends with the words of Montaigne, who said the aim of education is not to fill the head but to make a good head. Isn't it time, the professor asks, for us to take a closer and more mature look at our educational system, and do something to improve it?

No comments:

Post a Comment