By Kang Shin-who
Students who learn English in elementary school score better on English tests than those who began studying the language later, the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development said Wednesday.
The ministry asked Prof. Kwon O-ryang of Seoul National University to study the effectiveness of early English education because it has been 10 years since English was introduced in primary schools.
In the study, Kwon compared scores on the Global Test for English Communication (GTEC) of some 4,000 high school students in 2003 and 2006. Students who took the test in 2003 didn’t learn English in elementary school, but those who took the test in 2006 did.
Japanese company Benesse Corp. developed GTEC to measure the communication skills of businessmen.
Kwon gave students in 2006 the 2003 test.
While the scores collected in 2003 averaged 415 out of 800, the average score in 2006 was nearly 460. Scores for reading increased from 190 to 205 out of 320, and writing scores improved from 54 to 67 out of 160. Listening scores increased the most, from 170 to 188 out of 320.
The study did not take into account other trends in English language education such as the increasing number of students studying overseas and private education. Because the study used the 2003 version of the test, it included no spoken English component.
“It is true that we cannot attribute the improvement in English skills only to public education. It is impossible to consider all factors in a study,” Kwon told The Korea Times.
Kwon also surveyed 1,510 elementary students and 4,420 middle and high school students about their interest in English. It found that students lose their interest and confidence in English as they grow up.
In response to the question, “Do your English skills continue to improve?’’ nearly 36 percent of middle school students said “yes,’’ but only 23 percent of high school students said so.
When asked, “Has your confidence in English increased?’’ 41 percent of middle school students said “yes,’’ and 22 percent of high school students said so.
Students tend to study English to enter famous colleges and to get better jobs.