Bridging the Gap in Education

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Monday, July 31st, 2017

Children all around the world grow up with hopeful dreams, imagining a future without any restrictions. Of course, as they become older, a huge wall of reality comes crashing down, forcing them to give up the uncompromised dreams of their childhood. South Korean high-school students, especially, need to decide between the liberal arts or natural sciences in their 10th grade, and this choice fences in their potential. Because of such a policy, students who choose to take the liberal arts track cannot pursue science in any depth, and students who choose the natural sciences do not have the chance to delve into the social sciences. This lack of opportunity for students to learn a variety of subjects decreases a student’s capacity by not allowing them to try new things or have extraordinary dreams. Pushing students to select one side of the curriculum divide … Is this the true aim of education? In order to nourish creative convergent talents and give students enough time to think about their dreams, Korean high school education should combine the two different curriculum tracks into one common track.

Educating high-school students in common subjects will help develop talents with integrated analytical abilities. Duckhwan Lee (2014), a Chemistry professor at Sogang University, observed that“now, liberal arts graduate students who do not know about the natural sciences and natural science graduate students who do not know about the humanities will leave much to be desired in a perfect workforce.” Thus, in this advanced society that we live in, knowledge in diverse disciplines is required to become the type of talent that the world needs – a creative convergent talent. The Ministry of Education of South Korea (2015) stated that these talents can produce innovative creations with humanistic imagination and scientific creativity, and that the goal of the integration of the two tracks starting from 2018 is to foster students with those abilities. Creative convergent talent can broaden students’ thoughts and dreams without any academic restrictions, without limiting their potential, and without building a fence between the liberal arts and natural sciences. Innovations filled with creativity can be achieved by widening our scope of the world, and this can be made into reality only by providing a way for students to learn about a variety of subjects.

High school students will be able to seriously reflect on their dreams by receiving education on both the liberal arts and natural sciences. Upon review of the present curriculum at South Korea’s high schools, all students follow the same curriculum in their first year of high school, but the curriculum diverges after they choose their respective tracks: liberal arts track students learn Korean, Math, English and Social Studies, while natural sciences track students learn Korean, Math, English and Science. As a result, students in each track do not have the chance to learn about either social studies or science, consequently extinguishing any chances to experience those fields. Whatever kind of experience one high-school student has, that experience mostly revolves around the education they receive from school, so the school is responsible for the formation of the students’ identities, including their characters, interests, and dreams. Through the education they receive, students experience a lot of things and discover their most delightful and rewarding moments, but this takes quite a long time. As a high school student in Korea myself, it is a herculean task to determine my future dreams and career in such a short time. This is forced at the end of 2nd year because we have to study for the appropriate curriculum for the Korea College Scholastic Ability Test, which requires different subjects depending on the track a student chooses. By having one common track in high school instead of two tracks, students can have more time to ponder on their future and go through the process of realizing what they most enjoy, instead of being overly preoccupied about which track they should choose.

Some students have already determined their dreams and goals, so they dig deeply into one field and regard studying in other areas as a waste of time. Of course, if that student is so certain about his or her future career, it seems intuitive to show no interest in fields that the student does not want to major in. However, in order to achieve success in one field, one should not only be an expert in that specific branch but one should also have an idea of other disciplines. J.S. Ahn in How can the Creative Economy Succeed? wrote that innovative products and services that really impress people can be borne by integrated talents who have deep knowledge in the humanities and arts [and technology] and that enlightenment about human nature and desires like Steve Jobs creates new, creative products that weren’t in this world before (Ahn, 2014). This knowledge can be built up by the “right” education, and will be able to give students a broader understanding of the world. Although some students are already sure about their dreams, they should also experience other things to widen their perspectives and bring a variety of opportunities into their lives.

Since the Japanese colonial era, Korea’s high school education curriculum has been divided into two tracks, which hinders the cultivation of creative convergent talents and interrupts students’ deep consideration of their future dreams. Education exists in order to give students the opportunity to test their potential and even showcase those possibilities that are within. But the present curriculum at Korea’s high schools obscures the potential of students, if anything. If the students are able to broaden their dreams, and learn creative and innovative thinking, it is then that we can say that the genuine goal of education has been accomplished. In order to allow the students to connect what they’ve learned to their dreams, to open a new chapter in their lives and walk into a new world, we should give them the full opportunity of a broad education.

Jeanne Choi(Seoul Global High School)



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