The Rise of Global Education in South Korea
The education system in South Korea is changing, and the thing about change is that it takes time to perfect. I learned this the hard way and it’s greatly impacted my year as an English teacher in The Land of The Morning Calm in many positive (and sometimes not so positive) ways.
We sat in this great big lecture hall at Jeonju University waiting to receive our envelopes on the last day of our orientation. They were these bulky brown paper things filled with our destiny for the next year. Once it was finally in my hands I couldn’t stop scanning over the words “Global Education Center” as I speculated about what in the world that could mean.
Everyone in my group had clear cut information about their placement: [insert province here] followed by 초등학교 (Elementary School), 중학교 (Middle School), or 고등학교 (High School). I kept thinking to myself, “Maybe they made a mistake…”
Once I spoke to the President of Education from my district and she said she handpicked me from a bundle of applications, I thought “Are you sure you didn’t make a mistake?” Later, I thought, “Maybe it was a mistake, but maybe I got lucky.”
Today I’m not sure which of these if any, are true. I do know that my experience is unlike most others. I’ll be going home with an enlightened perspective which I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.
There are several differences between working at a regular school vs. a Global Education Center. I can’t say for certain how many districts/cities will implement this way of exposing English to public school students, but I’ll do my best to break down the basics for you.
In many cases, you might have the chance to apply directly for this position, especially if you’re already an English teacher in Korea. In other cases, you may be placed here without previous warning, just like I was. Either way, there are definitely pro’s and con’s to this position, but first…
What is a Global Education Center?
Let me try and give you a Reader’s Digest version of what it is to me. I’m one of a handful of Native English Teachers who serve as facilitators if you will, for the education of different cultures around the world, as well as practical English courses.
Students from surrounding schools come to my center on field trips and are divided into groups. Within those groups they may be given a route for four classes, for example, so that they get a little taste of a culture, a writing class, an IT class, and a taste testing class.
There are other courses in our lineup, but this should give you a general idea of the things we teach. My class this semester is centered around Spain and European culture and I have a blast teaching my students how to say Spanish words like ‘Fiesta’ and ‘Amigos.’
How is Teaching at a Global Center Different for Teachers?
As a teacher, I create one lesson per semester, excluding any extra classes in the afternoons or after school. I meet new students every single day and sometimes run big camps and global fairs to give students a wider perspective. We also help run some weekend programs for English and other language courses for adults.
What are the Pro’s?
– Students have the opportunity to learn about different places in the world, possibly even from a native of that region.
– It’s a fun way to expose Korean students to English and Native Speakers.
– Global Centers are creative and purposely designed to be entertaining experiences, so everyone leaves happy. My students usually have big smiles on their faces.
– Teachers have a lot of liberty in their lesson planning. Since they are only allowed to plan one per semester. It has to be good and unique.
– Teachers have the opportunity to meet new students every single day.
What are the Con’s?
– Teaching is extra intense because it’s all about ‘the show.’
– Teachers miss out on the opportunity to build long-lasting relationships since they have new and different students every day.
– Teaching one lesson per semester can become redundant.
Is This the Future of Education in Korea?
While I’m certainly not equipped to share any concrete facts about this subject, the education board in my district seems to think that it might be the future. In my personal opinion, I don’t think this will ever serve as a substitute for daily access to a Native English Teacher.
However, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for students to be exposed to different cultures and it’s definitely a great supplementary program that should continue to grow.
Are you interested in working for a global education center? There are no clear-cut directions for you to apply, but it may be worth the research. Coming to Korea to teach English is an experience that will surprise you, scare you, challenge you, and also make you a better person.
The most important thing I’ve learned about being in a position that’s so vastly different from all of my friends and colleagues is that I can overcome adversity.
I’ve been able to make a difference in Korea because I kept an open mind and gave this position a go, through the ups and downs, and now I see the positive impact it can have on the education system of this country.
Know that whatever position you’re placed in, as an English teacher abroad you’ll be leaving footprints, and it’s up to you whether or not they’re great, big, and unforgettable.