Thursday, May 17, 2007

What is happening to Korean college students?

Tonight, while having dinner with a couple of my Korean college students, one of them, a forth-year business major, mentioned how he hates having classes with freshmen. When I asked him why, he told me that freshmen were so noisy in class that it was hard to hear the professor. When I suggested that he tell them to be quiet since he is a senior, he told me that when he once tried that, one of the freshman threatened to take him outside and beat him up. I then asked what the professor did when the students got noisy in class, and he told me that the professors usually just ignore them, which really surprised me.

I am teaching college freshmen conversation classes that have close to fifty students in them, and I am frequently having to tell the students to be quiet during my lectures or to put away their cell phones. Students come to class without books, paper, or pens, and even the ones who come to class with pens and paper seem to think it is more fun to write and draw on their desks than in their notebooks. I usually catch one or two students in each class absentmindedly drawing on their desks. Even though I always stop my lecture, jump down their throats, and make them erase the graffiti, there will be one or two students in the next class doing the same thing. It seems to be a nasty habit that is hard to break. Korean college students remind me of high school students in the United States, and I think that part of the reason for that is that Korean professors have basically given up on classroom discipline.

My department head came to my office last week, and told me that our school cannot afford to fail students, and very clearly suggested that I should not fail any of mine. Third-rate colleges in Korea are so desperate for students these days that they are practically selling their diplomas. One of the students at dinner tonight told me that a growing percentage of our students are coming from industrial high schools, which were originally set up for students who did not plan on going to college. That explains a lot since many of my freshmen cannot even make five complete sentences in English. I would guess that more than fifty percent of my students come to college for reasons other than to learn.

There are people in every society who do not have the aptitude and motivation for college-level study, which is all right since they can just find jobs, instead. The problem in Korea is that Korean colleges are trying too hard to accommodate these weak, unmotivated students at the expensive of students who are there to learn.

Korean colleges need to raise their academic standards, improve classroom discipline, and fail the assholes who deserve to be failed.

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