My reading/writing students are, this week, presenting the results of their projects. The students were given two projects to do this semester, and we teachers were allowed to pick what type of projects we'd have our kids doing. I chose a problem/solution scenario; for the first project, the students only had to do some research into a problem—social, economic, whatever–that had some relevance to their majors, after which they had to present their findings to me orally.* For the second project, the students had a three-part task: (1) teach the class some English vocabulary words that they had encountered in their research, (2) write a 5-paragraph problem-solution essay, and (3) sit in for a Q&A session with the teacher.
The essays have been a bit depressing. Although these kids generally write at a higher level than the equivalent intermediate-level kids at my previous job, they have all, thus far, advocated some sort of government-centered measure for every problem they've researched. It doesn't seem to matter what the problem is: whether it's nuclear waste or the need for college grads to find decent jobs right out of school, my kids seem to think that the Korean government has all the power and all the answers. How to get more kids studying the natural sciences instead of medicine? Have the government offer more scholarships in that area. How to deal with nuclear power plants? Government regulation and funding. How to get kids more interested in math? Get the government to revamp the math curriculum. And so on. This has been a bit disappointing, but it hasn't been surprising.
*This is not how I would have designed the project, but the decision to format the projects this way wasn't mine. Were it up to me, a project for a reading/writing class would involve only reading and writing, not oral components. I'd probably assign an essay or a short paper.