Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Korea Herald on the University Entrance Exam

Word Count
Tues, Dec 22: 490
Tomorrow, my son and I fly to Canada for Christmas, while my wife has to stay and work.  Is it coincidence that in the words I wrote today, a man is literally pulled away from his wife?
The Herald's news isn't all that new.  The article's title is Multiple Choice Testing Can Smother Creativity.
Lee Won-key, the vice president of Seoul National University of Education, said the exam papers comprised of multiple-choice questions represents what is wrong with the English education in Korea. The multiple-choice questions restrict the students’ thinking to prearranged options, depriving them of a chance to think creatively.
“The problem is students are trained to think in a box for 12 years (from elementary to high school). By having them choose from five options, (the educators) are virtually injecting a perception that there can only be one answer to problems in the world,” he said.

Multiple choice questions, properly prepared, can test everything but creativity.

As a Canadian, I was taught a few things about the War of 1812.  We won it.  But, really, the British maintained their land claims and didn't lose any.  They burned the White House down but did not gain any new land or retake US territory.  As a nation, we Canadians didn't win anything as Canada didn't exist until 55 years later.

I wanted to point out this problem with Canadian historical education before suggesting that Korean historical claims regarding Japan, North Korea, China and the US seem wrong to me, obviously biased toward Korea's national interests.  It is easy to make a MC question regarding the claim "Dokdo belongs to Korea".  Asking for an essay on the subject would be far more interesting... and require the individual attention of a trained educator for several minutes.  In that same time, a Scantron (surely they are not still used, so imagine I wrote the name of whatever the modern equivalent is) could mark many full MC question exams.  Grading creative work is not easy, nor will everyone agree.  The longer the creative work, the better the agreement and the longer it takes to grade.
Added Later:
This isn't the other side of the coin.  It is the, ...other half of the same side?

The Korea Times - the English language competitor of the Herald, discusses how the American education system, and (North) American culture in general, encourages creativity.
Having students simply memorize facts may produce an erudite population, but it will hardly benefit society unless something is created with that knowledge. It is this act of using knowledge to create that has made America one of the most entrepreneurial and technologically advanced societies in the world.
For many American children growing up in affluent neighborhoods, the focus on engendering confidence, creativity and collaboration starts early by having children participate in fun group activities.
From Show and Tell in preschool, in which children do a presentation on their favorite toy, to book discussions in kindergarten where children can agree to disagree with each other’s opinions, children are encouraged to speak up.
In 2nd grade, children pair up and work collaboratively to analyze the books they have just read and to dissect them critically. In 7th and 8th grade science class, they work in a virtual ecosystem to solve a mystery as to why fish are dying in that habitat. In a 12th grade writing class, students critique and help each other to become better writers.
Even outside school, proactive involvement is highly encouraged in American kids.
Young children are awarded medals just for participating in sports or programs so that each child can value his or her role on the team.
Parents encourage their children to participate in sports because they build camaraderie, teamwork and a competitive spirit in a safe environment. Sports also teach children resilience after failure (because everyone has experienced losing in sports).

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