Korea: Education needs overhaul to nurture creativity

Education should put a greater focus on nurturing creativity by encouraging students to use their knowledge in solving real-life problems during class.

“The cultivation of creativity will be difficult in the current uniform education system under which teachers use the same textbook to simply follow school curriculum and give standardized tests to students,” said Baek Sun-geun, a professor of the Department of Education at Seoul National University and the former president of the Korean Educational Development Institute.

Baek joined a discussion panel in a symposium last month which was organized by the Citizens Coalition for Social Justice, a civic organization working for educational reform.

The theme of the symposium was the fourth industrial revolution and future of education in Korea.

“Teachers should encourage students to actively participate in class to use what they have learned in solving problems in real-life situations,” Baek said.

Baek called such classes student-centered.

“Students can actively participate in debates, project-based learning, problem-solving, manufacturing and outdoor activities,” Baek said.

Baek cited an example of a student-oriented class in which students explore careers.

“With the help of the community, students can visit beauty salons, bakeries and clothing stores to find out what kinds of jobs they want when they grow up, rather than just memorizing different kinds of professions sitting in a classroom,” Baek said.

The Academy of Global Future Studies said that it will publish its so-called future education report that provides blueprints for future education in the new era.

More than 30 professors will participate in this project as co-authors of the report and more than 20 educational experts will join its advisory committee.

According to Ahn Jong-bae, president of the academy, the report will contain overall aspects of future education including teaching methods of the student-oriented class and examples.

“There would be variety of forms of classes where students are able to become major players,” said Ahn, who is also a professor of the digital media and advertising department at Hansei University in Gyeonggi Province.

According to Ahn, the academy plans to complete the report by next September.

“We are going to convene together next month to form a consensus among us and will continue our research and studies on future education,” Ahn said.

More autonomy given to teachers

Kwon Dae-bong, a professor of the Department of Education at Korea University, emphasized that teachers should be given more autonomy to diversify classrooms.

“If given autonomy, school teachers and professors can try new teaching methods to bring diversity to the classroom by using their own abilities,” Kwon said.

He believes that giving more independence to teachers and schools can promote educational diversity which leads to cultivating creativity.

“Unlike in the past in which the government took the lead to develop our education, the government should grant more autonomy to teachers and schools to nurture creative human resources that can lead the fourth industrial revolution era,” Baek added.

He gave an example of a free learning semester in which middle school first graders spend one semester without tests, to allow them to explore future career paths. It was fully implemented in all middles schools across the nation this year.

“We can see that this kind of program, which allows teachers and students more freedom, has contributed to making a creative atmosphere in middle schools,” Baek said.

Kwon pointed that teachers also need professionalism in order to have more autonomy.

“As the quality of a class varies according to a teacher’s ability, teachers will have to have more responsibilities,” Kwon said.

He stressed that teachers will have to imbue the right sense of values in students’ minds related to jobs, as part of personality education.

“The recent scandal over Reckitt Benckiser’s Oxy humidifier sterilizers that were blamed for killing more than 100 people shows that company workers looked only after the company’s own interests,” Kwon said. “This is why teachers should encourage a community spirit in students to work for the public good as well as organizations they belong to.”

Kwon made a speech under the topic of future directions and challenges of career education in the era of the fourth industrial revolution at Global Education Forum 2016 hosted by Daekyo Culture Foundation in August.

Kwon called for change in teacher qualification exams in a long term.

“It would be effective to select teachers of elementary and secondary schools with the same standard in the long run,” Kwon said.

Future university

Besides creativity and community spirit, students need the ability to find and solve problems, said Ma Dong-hoon, a professor of the School of Media and Communication at Korea University.

“Our university will make an attempt to introduce a new type of education to help our students to build such abilities,” Ma said.

Ma spoke about the concept of future universities at a seminar held by the Hansun Foundation in September.

According to him, Korea University will start the construction of a future education college called Crimson College next month.

“The key concept is communication and immersion,” Ma said.

In line with such concept, the new building will have about 100 seminar rooms in which small groups of students can conduct discussions and more than 100 carrels in which individual students can study.

Ma also noted that universities should expand international exchanges to help students build a pioneering spirit.

“In the fourth industrial revolution era, people will face new challenges, which requires innovative spirit,” Ma said.

Baek admitted that the Korean style of uniform education was successful in fostering human resources required for a modern industrialized society.

“It is true that there are still a lot of developing countries that desire to learn Korean education strategies and share our educational success,” he said. “But it’s time to innovate our education for its sustainable development.”

Ma echoed Baek’s view.

“While Korean-style education produced a lot of skilled men in the past, it should be changed to be suited to the times,” Ma said.