Korea – Leader in education

A small little country in the south-east asia has always captured my attention. It is just the way Koreans do everything that amazes me every time. People are highly competent and are the leaders in technology. Korea traditionally has always been a very good performer in the PISA tests throughout. It is a te

English: concept map of Digital Textbook

English: concept map of Digital Textbook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

stament to their excellent quality of education that in the current report too the Korean students ranked third in science, second in maths and first in problem solving ability. Maths and science are two subjects which can be grasped by passive learning but the fact that Korean students ranked first in the problem solving ability really speaks volumes about the quality of their education system. So I want to share with you my perspective on this issue highlighting their major achievements and also how they have been able to tweak their system according to the global challenges that prevail currently.

A major effort has been put in by the government to realize the dream of better education for all the students of Korea. “Smart education” has been introduced in almost every school and it’s aim is to digitalize Korea’s entire school curriculum by 2015. The program is designed to respond to the 21st century education challenges by moving from uniform and standardized education to diversified, creativity-based learning, while at the same time bridging the education divide by making access available to all. According to Jeong-Min NOH, researcher in KERIS, the aim of this program is to produce a 21st century workforce capable of cooperative learning and better communication of their ideas to others. Korea has a unique system known as ICT ( Information and Communication Technology) where students learn interactively, sharing and gaining the knowledge with fellow students and teachers.

The highly competitive university exams of Korea have also been accordingly changed wherein the students now have to learn “actively” to crack the exams. The emphasis is on making students learn independently and creatively, and how to meet the challenges of new era and develop a new learning capacity where they can implement the knowledge gained in real world scenario.

One change that I personally think has been the most important one is put forward in exact words by Cha-Mi KWON, a teacher in an elementary school, “In the past, a strong student was one who was able to remember what he or she had learned, and filled out correct answers in test. Future skills will require students not just to have a good memory and write down what they have memorized. They will need to be able to select what is useful from various sources of information, and then assimilate that data as their own and then recreate it as their own. Digital textbooks can help students achieve this.” The Digital Textbook project was launched in pilot phase in 2007 and it is planned to implement it throughout the country schools in 2015.

Watching the students in Korea learn through technology, interacting and having fun is a major change because like India, Korea too has been a country which until now focused on traditional learning aimed at memorizing the learned material rather than be a part of the whole learning process. Students now have digital books in hands which are far more convenient both for the teacher and the students, facilitating them in teaching and learning actively. Surely it has been a transformation for a brighter future of the students. The government at the same time also wants to create a ubiquitous learning environment, helping him in every phase of development.

In 2005, Korea launched its Cyber Home Learning System (CHLS) to enable students to access lessons and curriculum assignments interactively from home. In addition to bridging school and home, this system is designed to provide more equitable access to educational materials. The Digital textbook and CHLS are meant to complement each other. Policy makers hope the combination will reduce pressures on parents to spend large sums on providing their children with private supplemental tuition. It is really a boon for the low-income families who cannot afford expensive private tuitions and at the same time it further creates a more interactive learning environment.

So Korea has basically achieved so much of success by realizing that

1) Global needs have changed and we can no longer focus on the traditional learning methods.

2) Implementation of successful initiatives in changing the way of learning by government.

3) A complete focus on the needs of the child and the family at the same time while developing new policies.

In India too we can achieve this success, although it would be much harder due to the great diversity we see here. I believe that AAKASH tablet can play a huge role in introducing and ushering a new wave of technology aided learning. The government has to streamline its policies and make a dedicated effort to implement this project throughout the country. At the same time there has to be a strong and sustained focus on developing teachers who can create this new environment of learning. If this work is done in a mission-mode scenario then we can surely achieve the success Korea has achieved.

And most of all we need to instill the quality in ourselves that in no way we are less than anyone, but with sustained hard work and proper guidance anything can be achieved. Impossible is nothing.