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F. M. - Belgium said:
Problems for learners in KoreaEnglish is widely taught in korea and is taken very seriously as it is an important key factor for entering prestigious universities. The highly competitive korean culture pushes students to be well prepared for university entrance exams. In this context, more and more native Western teachers come to korea to teach English. However, they often report, complain about what they identify as a reluctance or lack of interest to participate in the classroom (Fintch, 2008). In this paper, I shall try to analyse this problem and propose some solution to improve the teaching of English in korea. English in korea and problems for students After the korean War, in the 1950?s, English became a compulsory subject in korean education, from primary school to University. Since the educational system in korea favours the examination system which grants access to higher education, hence ?good? job and better life, students actively prepare in school and extra curricular classes. Traditionally, the education system is based on observation and imitation methods rather than communicative goals; to prepare students for university entrance exams, classes mainly focus on grammar skills, learning of the rules rather than a way of communication itself. By the end of the 1990?s, a change in methods appeared, trying to give more place to communicative skills. However, social pressure and test culture still favours a practical examination approach: students generally focus on what they need to know for the tests (Szoldos). Furthermore, korean students suffer from a lack of contact with English ?after school?; they do not have enough communicational practice outside academic classes. Many native teachers analyse students? passiveness and reluctance to interact in the class as a lack of interest, dependence on teacher and heavily influenced by the traditional Confucian education (Cheng, 2000; Fintch, 2008): teacher-centered lessons, group harmony maintenance reflected in passive behaviour. students? behaviour can indeed be explained in terms of cultural differences; Confucian thinking promotes moderation, and as a result, korean students tend to express themselves indirectly, and placing group harmony higher than the individual, they try to preserve a group-belonging attitude. Native teachers identify this cultural difference comparing it with Western habits, actually placing the cause on students? culture inadequacy with their methods (Byung, 2004). However studies (Cheng, 2000; Fintch, 2008) tend to indicate that these alleged causes may actually be related to teaching conditions. Teaching methods leave an influence on students and provide habits that should be taken into consideration before operating brutal change. In a study realized by Finch in a korean university, it appeared that students would react negatively to brutal change in teaching methods, however, they were sensible to information about change, which suggested that the teacher has a role to platy in terms of communicating reasons of a given teaching approach. At the same time, the study shows that korean students are influenced by the social pressure to success, resulting in anxieties reflected in the class room by a ?defensive? attitude. It appears that indeed teaching conditions and social expectations bear more influence on students than their cultural Confucian heritage. Approach to solutions Specialists (Cheng, 2000; Byung, 2004; Fintch, 2008) and teachers (Szoldos) suggest to overcome the cliché about the so-called influence of Confucian principles in the classroom and work on new approaches considering method rationalization and classroom environment. Besides, [Byung] suggests to improve communication between native and korean teachers to develop mutual understating for better teaching practices. I agree with these approaches. In addition, as a personal approach, I think korean students would benefit from extended contact with English through technology in the form of Internet-based collaborative platforms, including contacts with natives. korea is well placed in terms of computer technology which is nowadays part of every day life. I intend to implement a small platform that would give students an opportunity to practice English in a natural environment for them, on common tasks devised to improve their communication skills. I believe these extra curricular activities would reinforce the group as a whole, teacher included and provide remarkable results in terms of participation in the classroom. References -Xiaotang Cheng, Asian students' reticence revisited, January 2000 Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875,People's Republic of china -Byung-Eun Cho, Issues Concerning korean Learners of English: English Education in korea and Some Common Difficulties of korean students, The East Asian Learner Vol. 1 (2) Nov. 2004 -Les Zsoldos, The state of English Education in korea, Online publication: -Andrew Fintch, An Attitudinal Profile of EFL Learners in korea, Electronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching 2008, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 206?219, Kyungpook National University, South korea