A Formative Evaluation of a Task-based EFL Programme for Korean University Students


CHAPTER 2: THE SITUATION

2.1 Introduction

Designing, implementing, evaluating and reforming a language programme involves a number of stages, as in Skilbeck's (1984) school-based curriculum development model (cf. figure B-3, below).

figure B-3

In a formative evaluation the actual sequence of stages is flexible and the programme is always in a state of being established, implemented, evaluated and reformed, each stage interacting with and influencing the others (Skilbeck 1984; Wiseman & Pidgeon 1970; cf. Lynch's 1996:4 "Context-adaptive model", figure B-2). With this in mind, Skilbeck's model can be expanded to show the cyclic and mutually-influential nature of programme design, implementation and evaluation (cf. figure B-4, below). This model suffers from the "brevity and apparent orderliness" (Skilbeck 1984) of a two-dimensional representation of a complex, dynamic, self-referential and self-influencing process, but it provides a useful checklist of items for consideration, and is referred to throughout this study.

figure B-4

2.2 The situation

2.2.1 Introduction
The first stage in the expanded situational curriculum development model (appendix B-4, above) is to analyse the situation ("What do we know?"), defining the parameters of the programme and its goals:

  1. Why was it being set up? (section 1.1, page 26)
  2. Who was it for? (section 5.3, page 182)
  3. What were the needs of the programme audience[1]? (section 5.3.2, page 184)
  4. How would it be evaluated? (sections 1.3, chapter 8, pages 29, 249)
  5. What sort of results were expected (and by whom)? (sections 1.2, 4.2, pages 28, 174)

In answer to question 1, the decision had been made by the ANU President to address the widely recognised inability of Koreans to use English, despite their years of formal training (section 2.3.3.1, below), by setting up a three-year English Conversation Programme. Questions 2 to 5 (above) are examined in later chapters of this study, but it is appropriate first to describe the historical and cultural background of education in Korea, in order to put answers derived from these examinations into perspective.

2.3 English education in Korea

2.3.1 The Korean education system (a brief history)
Educational change in Korea[2] has typically been driven by major political events: the Japanese colonisation of 1910 (resulting in imposition of the Japanese education system); World War II (after which mandatory education at primary level was introduced); and the Korean War (1950-1953) (which resulted in the partitioning of Korea and in the adoption of American educational and political values and systems in the newly formed Republic). Support from Western nations and organisations during and after the Korean War had a profound effect on promoting a democratic form of government[3] and a capitalist economic system. These and other developments in the 20th century have been instrumental in producing the educational system as it exists at the beginning of the 21st century. However, the Korean educational ethos extends much further back into history.

2.3.1.1 Confucian education

Education in Korea over the past 3000 years has mostly been imported from China and Japan (and more recently, America). Thus Thomas & Postlethwaite(1983:190) describe the Chinese scholar Kija, who arrived c. 1100 B.C. with 5000 followers, to teach Koreans music, Chinese art, medical knowledge, literature, and Chinese ideographic characters. Subsequent centuries of continued contact between the two cultures brought Confucianism and Buddhism to Korea, the first providing guidelines in social ethics, education and government, and the second satisfying spiritual needs.Thus, when formal education began with the foundation in 372 A.D. of the Daehak (, , or "Great School" – i.e. "University") by the Koguryo Kingdom, students learned the teaching of Confucius and (later) Buddhism. A further import from China (957 A.D.) was the introduction of a Civil Service examination for applicants to government positions. This three-yearly event took the form of a two-level set of tests on Confucian literature, and had a great influence on Korean educational practice and philosophy, still evident in modern-day entrance examinations for the civil service, teaching posts, and universities. Just as those who passed the original examination became Yangban ([4], - the civil and military officialdom), students who excel in modern entrance examinations gain positions in reputable institutions (e.g. Seoul National University) and benefit from the lifelong kudos associated with the institution.

The Chinese tradition of "the gradual uncovering of higher knowledge through hard work" (de Bary 1991; Hsu 1992), in which "obedience" is associated with self-knowledge and humility, is mirrored in the Korean concept of study and self-improvement on the way to public office. Thus Korea has a large number of "Sowons" (, - private academies) that young men attended in order to study the writings of sages such as Confucius, prior to going to Seoul to take the Public Office examination (women were excluded from local and higher education throughout the 518 years of the Yi dynasty [up to 1910], being expected to follow the Confucian ideals of diligence, frugality and chastity [Hyde 1988:100], in the confines of their homes). Andong (the setting for the present study) is well known for its Sowons (including the most famous one in Korea – Tosansowon - 꼭), and for the "Yangban" who used to live there, combining a life of morality, farming and scholarship.

2.3.1.2 Modern Education
Education gradually became available to a greater portion of the population in the 19th century, as patriots' and foreign missionaries founded private schools and national institutes, teaching practical subjects appropriate for leaders of society. However, the Japanese invasion of 1905 brought with it a new education system (though Japanese influence was evident in education before then) characterised by: i) more schools and types of schools (primary, middle, teacher-training, and foreign-language schools); ii) improved instruction; iii) centralisation of control; iv) favoured treatment of Japanese children; and v) fewer Christian Missionary Schools (Thomas & Postlethwaite 1983:194). Following liberation in 1945, there was a great appetite for education in Korea, and educators were keen to eliminate all traces of colonialism, and to promote universal literacy. Thus a new system was formulated, entitling all Korean citizens to receive an education, and with seven main objectives: health, politics, culture, intellectual life, social life, aesthetics and economic life (Hong 1983:208). This was ratified in an important law of 1948, in which schooling was made compulsory (and free) at primary level (6 years), and voluntary at secondary level (3 years of middle school, and 3 years of high school). This democratisation of education included promotion of adult education to reduce illiteracy, and the creation of teacher-training colleges (Japanese teachers had been repatriated, and Korea was suddenly without most of its teachers). The movement "from a knowledge-based curriculum to one centring on life situations and individual needs of learners" (Hong 1983:226) continued in the 1950s, along with government-initiated massive curriculum changes, emphasising anti-communist education and moral training.

Educational institutions were unable to cope with the tremendous increase in student numbers during the rapid economic progress of the 1960s and 1970s, and over-crowded classrooms (cf. table A-2, below), over-sized schools, and shortages of facilities and qualified teachers resulted. Competition in the national college entrance examination also increased, and the government took a number of compensatory measures, including abolishing the middle school admission test, expanding provincial universities, and establishing junior colleges (2-year vocational and technical colleges), the Korea Air & Correspondence University, and Air & Correspondence high schools. A nationwide college-entrance-examination system prevented unqualified applicants from entering colleges and thus reduced the unlimited expansion of private institutions (Hong 1983:230), by including all high school subject matter in the examination. The principle of modernisation based on traditional Korean values (which is still at the base of education in Korea) was expressed in the Charter of National Education (1968), which proposed a three-dimensional view of education - individual, societal, and national.
table A-2

In the 1970s and 1980s there was a need for education to adjust to the manpower needs of a growing industrialised society, and to produce a well-qualified technical and professional workforce. Thus the 1970s saw the "Saemaul" ([5] - new village) rural-development project, the reform of technical education, broadcast and correspondence courses, and the revision of higher education. President Chun Doo-hwan's Fifth Republic (from 1979) also instituted a number of reforms, including educational broadcasting, a graduation quota system for colleges and universities, and an education tax, as well as setting up a Presidential Commission on Educational Reform (March 1985), with the aim of "educating Koreans as the Prospective Leaders in the 21st Century" (Korean Ministry of Education website). This body recommended ten further reforms in December 1987 (including reform of the school system, reform of the entrance examination system, modernisation of school facilities, and recruitment of qualified teachers), which were adopted and enacted. In May 1988, the Advisory Council for Educational Policy was inaugurated as an advisory council to the Minister of Education. By the end of the 1980s, education had grown in quantity of people in formal and non-formal programmes and in the quality of schooling, and curriculum development had reached "a level of considerable sophistication" (Hong 1983:228). The 7th Socio-economic Development Plan (1992-1996) continued the aim of "Educating Koreans as the Prospective Leaders for the 21st Century" (cf. Li 1998:681), through establishment of educational policies promoting "accomplishment of sound personality, pursuit of excellence, realization of equality, and enhancement of hope for a better future" (Korean Ministry of Education website). The "Vision for Education beyond 2002: Creation of a New School Culture" (1998) focused on student evaluations of general performance in school:

Personality, school participation and civic mindedness through volunteerism will be included in the new criteria for judging student performance. Each school will be given more autonomy in working out curriculum to reflect students' wishes. (Korea Herald, October 23, 1998)

Such measures are evidence of an awareness at top levels of government of the importance of holistic education in fashioning the society of the future, though Li (1998:686) indicates that teachers in Korean secondary education find it difficult to implement these policies for various reasons (e.g. large classes, grammar-based examinations, teacher-deficiency in spoken English, lack of training in communicative language teaching).


[1] Evaluation audience: students/parents/teachers/administrative staff/sponsors.
[2] References to "Korea" in this study are to The Republic of Korea (South Korea) unless otherwise indicated.
[3] The first democratically elected president (Kim Young-sam) took office in 1993.
[4] Korean script (hangul), is followed here by the transcription of the term ("yangban") in Chinese ideographs (hanja), which are in common use in Korea. Their use is optional, rather than integral to the written language (as in Japan), and some media prefer not to use them.
[5] "Semaul" does not have an ideographic transcription, being a solely Korean word.