Saturday, November 20, 2010

Another salient peculiarity of Korean public schools:

Going to high school in Korea isn't automatic.  Koreans don't just go to the nearest high school upon completing middle school.  They apply to high schools they're interested in and have to be accepted before they can attend.  High school applications require final grades (more exactly, class ranking data) from middle school, so to facilitate this process, grade 3 middle school students write their final exams in early November, with 6 weeks of school remaining before the winter break.

This means students attend 6 weeks of classes that have no impact on their future.  There will never be another middle school test for them, never another grade.  The book is closed.  Consequently, students who were difficult to motivate or keep on task become impossible.  As far as they're concerned, middle school is over--and they're right.  One can understand why American schools always schedule their final exams for the week before vacation.

The complaint I'm coming around to here is that my 3rd grade classes have become impossible.  I spent this last week trying to play a fun game in class and most students won't do it.  The game's fun and built on unchallenging language, but only about 20% of the students actually play it.  The others prefer fighting or talking to their friends.  I can force them to play the game if I hover over them, constantly supervising, but once I turn around they stop.

My predecessor tells me the Korean teachers spend these classes watching movies and hoping for the best; naturally, I'm held to a higher standard and my lessons are expected to have some educational value.  Five more weeks.

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