Evaluation of The Current English Education Course in POSTECH: Is Everything Okay?
Evaluation of The Current English Education Course in POSTECH: Is Everything Okay?
  • Gwak Jun-ho Jeong Yoo-han
  • 승인 2016.09.07 17:25
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POSTECH is its own exclusive English education courses without alternative requirements for TOEFL or TOEIC. Thus, the English skills of graduate students of POSTECH inevitably become dependent on the university’s English education course. To investigate the circumstances and opinions about the current English education course, The Postech Times has gathered opinions of students and professors in POSTECH.
Postechians’ point of view
POSTECH has a unique system for English classes, called the English Certification Program. The system changed in 2008 from requiring TOEFL scores to taking compulsory English subjects for graduation. The system starts with freshmen taking an exam at the beginning of the semester through which they are given an English level. A majority of students start at level 4, also known as English III, which leaves them with 7 English courses to complete before graduation. However, the students of POSTECH do not seem to like this program, since graduates only earn 4 credits, which is a lot less compared the number of classes and time required to complete each course.
A survey has been done by The Postech Times to find out how Postechians feel about the school’s English system. A total of 115 people have replied to the poll. The survey consisted of questions about whether English classes help improve English skills and what the students would like to say about the program.
Seventy-two students replied that the English classes of POSTECH help improve language skills. However, apart from being helpful, a majority of students expressed dissatisfaction about the whole system. First, the biggest problem is that the current system requires too much time. Almost 60% of students start at English III. The problem is, students of POSTECH have to take English courses every semester, and if they fail a class, it leads to spending time during summer or winter vacation.
The second problem is related with the quality of certain English classes. It is also shown in the survey that the classes the students felt improvement are Intermediate and Advanced English classes. Students feel that courses such as English II and III do not fit the purpose of the school’s English system.
The biggest reason students feel this way is because such classes give out S too easily. The reason behind this is because most classes are mainly focused on giving out homework. As a result, students’ main target is to hand in homework on time, which they think does not help in improving English and is impractical.
Another problem students face is the lack of courses available to register. There are always students who fail to register for the exact English courses they want every semester, and it leads to having to spend extra time during summer or winter sessions.
It is true that a majority of students of POSTECH felt their English skill improving through the school’s English program. However, that is not true of all classes. Students feel major modifications must be made to the current system and are looking forward seeing what improvements will be made.
Professors’ point of view
Professors unanimously claimed that to understand the current English Certificate Program, its historical background must be taken into account. The current English Certificate Program in POSTECH, according to program coordinator Professor Dong-wan Cho (HSS), is ‘productive skills’ such as writing and speaking. Until 2008, POSTECH had had a different English education course in which students had to take two English subjects run by the university, and receive grades for TOEFL, higher than that of specified boundary grades. However, the problem with the previous English course was that students did not study purely for their English skills, but for passing TOEFL which was mostly based on ‘receptive’ skills such as reading and grammar. Therefore, students had to leave and enter companies linguistically unprepared. Furthermore, those students who embarked on master’s and doctorate programs had difficulties with writing thesis papers and communicating with foreign scholars, as they had been busy building up ‘receptive’ skills. Therefore, the English education course was reorganized. It became no longer necessary for students to receive specific grades from TOEFL and every English subject was taught by the university, mostly on speaking and writing. Prof. Cho is confident that finishing the current English education course can boost up the students’ English level to the point of Intermediate Level of OPIC (Oral Proficiency Interview-computer), which is a widely acquired by Korean companies for application prerequisites. Also, professors have had many students who had exponential growths of their English skills during the course, especially in writing. Prof. Cho pointed out that the students had potential and talent, but they were just not given appropriate environments such as Campus Living English for speaking and Advanced Writing for writing. Furthermore, professors claim that increasing the grade boundary from 85% to 90%, which started last semester, has improved students’ general attitudes, homework completion, participation in class, and preparation for exams. Along with Prof. Cho, professors in charge of English education course are examining making the last level in English course as an alternative, in which students seeking for employments after graduations can pass the last level by receiving boundary grades in TOEFL. Professor Raymond Close (HSS) said “There can not be a ‘perfect’ program. The current system is an attempt at finding the optimal balance between various competing demands”.