Laments as to why South Korea spends so much on English education but tends to have poor outcomes are a dime a dozen, but this one by Professor Lee Jae-min, a professor at Seoul National University, gets to the heart of the matter:
“Regardless of the appropriateness of the government’s new scheme, it again confirms the follies we have committed so far ― treating English mainly as an exam subject and a score to achieve rather than a tool for communication in the globalized world. Even the government is now acknowledging that communication ability is not the main objective of English education in Korean schools. A bad signal indeed.”
Of course in my humble opinion, every aspect of life is treated like a test in South Korea. But one of the reasons I’ve come to prefer teaching adult students is that most of them (not all!) understand that English is one communication tool among many, and that if you treat it merely like a test subject you aren’t likely to get very far.
My college students generally don’t believe me when I tell them that the most important part of their grade is participation and in-class effort, not their midterm or final exam scores. That’s pretty much a sacrilegious statement within a Korean classroom, going well against the nearly two decades of expectations they’ve been given before running into me.