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Submitted by Arianna Choi on Fri, 2009-04-03 16:05

Competition: How to Win

Our children spend over a month less in school than children in South Korea every year. That's no way to prepare them for a 21st century economy.

— President Obama in his speech about Complete and Competitive American Education (March 10, 2009)

Obama's remark sparked fiery discussions in the past few weeks throughout South Korea. From personal blogs to mainstream media outlets, it seems like people were emotionally charged about the test-focused ed policy.

Some claim that the US president citing the Korean education (on multiple occasions) translates to his endorsement and desire to take the standardized-test-heavvvvvy ed policy in Korea as a model for American students. Others argue that his citation is a simple statistical reference and question Koreans on why anyone would ever want to admire its crippled ed system that has little appreciation for neither critical nor creative thinking.

I'm with the latter group based on my first-hand experiences from when I lived in Seoul until the sixth grade. There are pros and cons, of course, but uniformly multiple-choice-only standardized tests fall under the cons — the worst, to be frank.

Naturally, I was drawn to further investigate this frenzied debate and became upset and hopeful at the same time. Contradictory, I know but here's why:

The upsetting part, explained in 60 sec.
video created and edited by Arianna C.

the hopeful part
Last week, hundreds of students walked out on the nationwide standardized test with the support of their parents and under the guidance of progressive teachers who arranged field trips instead. More than 5,000 also opposed the test by turning in blank test papers. This boycotting is a repeat of what resulted in a dismissal of 12 school teachers last year.


Doug Beacom Says:
Tue, 2009-04-07 17:14

why wasn't GlobalizEd there to cover this walk-out!? Next year, next year.

What a radical notion, right? People deciding that they are the primary agents in deciding if they'll let themselves be quantified and measured in meritocracy based on metrics and standardized testing--

It seems like it wasn't an easy choice, especially for the teachers--losing a respected post like being a teacher (respected in East Asia, I should add) could not only be a hit economically, but also socially.

It comes down to the question that was painted on a wall in my high school: "are we preparing (students, teachers, ourselves) for a life of work...or a life of worth?"

Arianna Choi Says:
Tue, 2009-04-07 22:09

Hi Doug, can GlobalizEd travel anywhere on assignment? sign me up!

I wonder who pained that quote on your high school wall. A student maybe? A life of work vs. a life of worth... unless one chooses a life like H.D.Thoreau (near the Walden pond), my take is that we should prepare for both.

The formula of mixture/balance should depend on each student, but as teachers don't we all have social goals as well as institutional goals.

Doug Beacom Says:
Wed, 2009-04-08 07:37

I think I paraphrased this quote poorly...
so I looked it up, turns out it is a quote from former NEA president (and current GWU faculty member?) Mary Hatwood Futrell,
"prepare students not only for a life a work, but for a life of worth."
so the big difference is that it need not be a choice of work v. worth, but to cover our bases of preparing students for both.

Ting Yuan Says:
Wed, 2009-04-08 09:19

I'd love to get some training from the media group, to be a future member of the GlobalizEd. I'm going to visit two schools in China in late May, one is a regular elementary school near Shanghai, and the other is an elementary school for Japanese students only. Maybe I can have some trial clips for GlobalizEd? What potential topics I can explore for that? Any ideas or tips?