Back Woo-jin Senior, Dept. of Pubilc Admistration firstname.lastname@example.org
On the first floor of the Central Library on our campus, beside the elevator, you can find a poster fixed on the bulletin board. In the poster, Ahn Sung-ki, one of the most famous Korean actors, is reading a book sitting on a bench, surrounded by green woods.
And at the bottom of the poster, this slogan is printed: “A man reading books is beautiful.” Yes. It is really beautiful to see someone reading a book. Whenever I see a person reading on the bus or subway, I usually say to myself, “How wonderful!”
There is no doubt that we can get a lot of benefits through books. Dividing the benefits into three parts, first, we can get knowledge and information. This promotes our quality of life and plays the role of a compass that we need to use to accomplish something difficult. Books also help students to realize their own dreams. Books foster their imagination and encourage them.
Second, we can experience the delight of knowledge by reading books. We are able to acquire even the wisdom of life as well as learning new things. A philosophy book teaches us the core of life and a book of essays gives us the wisdom to step back to see the world more broadly. Moreover, we can have a chance to think about our life and death problems seriously through religious books.
Third, “reading books” is, so to speak, a way to meet others. It is possible to meet a poet by reading poetry and an essayist by reading an essay. When we read a novel, we can meet various types of characters. Such a meeting gives us a chance to live the lives of people we have never met. Everybody knows that reading books enriches our life and therefore, it’s necessary for us.
I have watched a TV program, named “Let’s read books”. The contents of the program are as follows: the program selects one book every week and lots of viewers know it. And then, a week later, the program gives a prize to a person who has read the book. Thanks to this program, we can find the books displayed even in convenience stores.
But what on earth is the reason that most Koreans do not like to read books? Why have people put books down? I think that the Korean education system is behind the problem. When I was young, I was a boy who liked reading books so much. But my mother took books out of my hands. Putting a textbook in my hands, she said.
“Do your study, son.” Instead of my fairy tale books, what she gave to me was a textbook. This is exactly my point. Koreans do not think reading books is related to school education, and think that reading things such as novels, poetry, essays and so on is recreation not study.
This is because they think it cannot help students to pass the university entrance exam. That is to say, Korean education is snatching books and even dreams from students. I experienced this too, and I guess that there are a lot of people like me in Korea.
There’s a saying, “What is learned in the cradle is carried to the tomb.” In other words, if someone gets into a habit early once, it is very hard to break. It is just the same with books.
If a person does not form good reading habits when they are young, it is impossible to take up books in the future. In this way, it is difficult for typical Korean students to form good reading habits. The reason is simple. Most Koreans think that reading books is not study, and the aim of Korean education is having the students succeed in the university entrance examination.
Thus, Koreans do not like reading books. There may be many reasons for this besides the education problem. For example, the development of visual media such as TV or the spread of the Internet could be the reasons. But these are indirect causes. If the education system were sound, in other words, if the entrance examination were not the ultimate goal of Korean students, such reasons could not explain it. Korean education is taking books away from students. Even their parents are doing this.
What on earth is education? Are Math and English the only subjects that can be categorized as education? That is nonsense. Of course not! After entering university, people cannot also read books, play the piano, and paint pictures.
To my way of thinking, Korean education is all about too focused on going to university. Most students are trained to go to university. It is no exaggeration to say that it’s the goal of their life. To achieve this goal, some Korean kids go to several private institutes, and are taught specially as gifted children. The only aim of this education is “the exam”.
People who fail the entrance exam are classified as social failures. After the entrance exam, the students have no more dreams or hopes. They cast away their books for the exam and the society accepts this. This is the reality of Korean education and this is why most Koreans don’t like reading books.
By reading, people can get a real dream. People who don’t have a dream can never succeed in their life, and a society that consists of such people cannot develop any more. However, Korean education is interrupting students’ reading. Although the society has no social foundation to encourage reading, and at the same time it forces us to read books. How contradictory it is!
As long as the university entrance examination exists, Korean students will not be able to read books freely. Do you have a book that you are reading at the moment? If you do not, just remember the education that you have received. Do you want your children to like reading books? Then, find an alternative to take the place of “the exam”.