EBS workbook-based test hampers English classes
Holding an EBS English workbook in one hand and the translated version of the book in the other, a “famous” lecturer asked students which book they should study to get a better score on the College Scholastic Aptitude Test (CSAT). Contrary to the common conception that one should study English through English, the lecturer raised the translated text emphasizing the importance of memorizing the content. He even argued that test takers do not have to read the English version at all because it wastes time.
This scene was not an episode from a comedy program. It was actually aired throughout the country a couple of months ago to give effective and applicable tips to students who are preparing for the CSAT scheduled for this November. After KICE announced that approximately 70 percent of this year’s English test would use passages from EBS workbooks, English classes in the country became desperate to cover the content of the EBS books.
However, reviewing all eleven EBS workbooks is almost impossible considering the enormous amount of study materials that would be needed by the test takers. As a result, the distressed college applicants resorted to reading the translated passages in Korean and memorizing them.
This bizarre exam tactic also had a negative influence on ordinary English lessons. Students do not want English-oriented English classes. They prefer teacher-centered lectures where an English teacher translates texts and explains grammar features and vocabulary to students. It even comes to a point where English teachers who use classroom English are blamed that they don’t understand the priority. In a test-driven Korean society, the distorted classes are getting more popular by both learners and their parents. Actually, the EBS workbook-based test scheme drove real English out of English classes.
Some may argue that adapting the passages from the nationally broadcast educational programs can reduce the private education cost. Conversely, the hardest hit was the small and medium sized publishers, not the private education institutions. Many tutoring institutions are also using EBS workbooks and even circulating a concise summary of the content with the expected questions and answers, adding oil to the deformed education fever.
The incumbent government has shown stronger enthusiasm for English education than its predecessors. Even though there were some disagreements about the detailed action plans at the beginning, most people agreed with the fundamental goal of teaching English through English.
In this context, limiting the reading resource and driving students to focus on specific books only can have detrimental effects on enhancing students’ real English competence. To boost problem solving skills and communicative language competence, learners should be more exposed to various reading materials. To do so, the ministry of education should revise its plan to reduce the portion of EBS workbook-related questions and encourage students to read more broadly and deeply.
Song Jung-sun is an English teacher at Suwon Academy of World Languages in Gyeonggi Province. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.