Saturday, October 31, 2009

School Ladder System in Korea

The school ladder system integrates the vertical structure of schools, the advancement of students by grade, with the horizontal structure of education, which links schools to cooperate on meeting educational needs.

Korea has a single-track , 6-3-3-4 system that maintains a consistent progression through the school levels in order to ensure that every citizen can receive elementary, secondary, and tertiary education without discrimination. The single-track systems require six years in primary school, three years in middle school, three years in high school, and four years in college or university. Higher educational institutions include graduate schools, four –year colleges and universities, and two –or three-year colleges.

Prior to the modern education system, the Education Act, promulgated in 1949, stipulated six years of primary school, four years of middle school, and four years of high school or two years of normal schools were an alternative to general high schools, and they provided training in primary school education. The Act was revised I 950 to provide a uniform three years in high school and three years in normal school. When the Act was revised again just one year later, middle school education was reduced to three years, creating a single-track 6-3-3-4 school ladder system. In 1981, the newly inaugurated Fifth Republic increased schooling at teachers’ colleges from two to four years. In 1982, open universities were established for the first time.
All in all, Korea’s school system has maintained a single-track system under the umbrella of legislation of the Education Act and its amendments. Today, the standardization of curricula in primary and secondary education, the popularization of higher education, and the expansion of pre-school and lifelong education are international trends. Korea is responding to these changes by creating a more flexible, future –oriented school system.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pre- School Education in Korea

Pre-school education was largely provided by religious, social, and other private organizations, until the Education Act provided a legal basis for early education in 1949. In 2004, the government enacted an Early Childhood Education Act to develop pre-schools independently from primary schools and secondary schools.
National, public, and private pre-schools provide courses to children from the ages three to five. The goal of the current early education curriculum is to provide an appropriate environment for nurturing children and promoting their development through various, enjoyable activities, utilizing diverse contents and innovative methods of instruction.

The Kindergarten curriculum developed by the state is composed of five “life domains”: health, society, expression, language, and exploration. Pre-school education has the following objectives:

1. Cultivate the daily habits necessary for physical and mental health

2. Provide basic education for everyday life, nurture social skills, and introduce Korean history and culture

3. Provide experiences that stimulate creative thought and expression

4. Improve basic communication skills through unique experiences

5. Help students develop the ability to reflect upon the problems of everyday life and appreciate nature

As of April 1, 2007, 37 percent (56 percent, if based on five-year-old children) of pre-school age children attended 8,294 kindergartens and nursery schools nationwide. In order to provide pre-school educational opportunities to children of low-income families, the government began to adopt the following series of measures:

1. Financial aid for pre-school to low income families starting from September of 1999

2. Free tuition to five-year-old children from 2002

3. Differential tuition aid to three-and four-year-old children starting from 2004, and support to families with two or more children attending nursery school or pre-school starting from 2005.

In order to improve the quality of pre-school education, the government annually develops free teaching materials and distributes them to pre-schools nationwide. These materials are separated into three or four types: guidelines for teachers, books for children, guidelines for parents, and supplementary materials for the general public. In 2007, as part of an educational welfare policy, the government developed educational programs to bridge the gap in learning and development between those children who are beneficiaries of educational institutes and those who are not. In 2008, the government offered these programs at pre-schools nationwide.
In addition, annual evaluation of pre-schools will bee performed from 2008 to 2010 to understand and assist the operations of early-education schools.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Teachers’ Training System in Korea

In Korea, many institutes offer teacher education: universities of education, colleges of education, general colleges and universities, junior colleges, the Korea National Open University (a broadcast and correspondence university), and graduate schools of education.
Junior colleges and universities of education train most of the kindergarten teachers and primary school teachers, respectively, whereas ordinary colleges and universities teach most secondary school teachers. More than 50,000 prospective teachers are trained annually (Education in Korea, 2009).

  • Primary School Teachers
Universities of education and the departments of primary education at the Korea National University of Education and Ewha Women’s University train most primary school teachers. Around 6,000 primary school teachers are currently receiving training at 11 national universities of education. The primary education departments of Korea National University and Ewha Women’s University produce 210 instructors per year. Korea National University of Education changed from being a two year educational institute to a four-year university in 1981, and all other educational colleges followed suit in 1984. Graduate of these universities receive a bachelor’s degree.

  • Secondary School Teachers

While secondary school teachers are mainly taught at teachers colleges, they are also trained in departments of education or teacher training courses at ordinary universities and graduate schools of education. Temporary teacher training centers were once operated to meet the teacher shortage. Today, teachers are only trained through regular school curricula.

A total of 13 national and 28 private colleges of education and general universities produce around 15,000 prospective teachers annually. About 5,000 teachers are also trained at graduate schools of education with the purpose of providing in-service training to teachers. Teacher training courses are also available at 2,913 departments of 152 general universities that produce about 10,000 prospective teachers each year.

College of education require a total of 130-150 credits for graduation, 20 percent of which must be in liberal arts, 60 percent in the major subject, and the remaining 20 percent in electives. The major subject course study requires subject study, subject teaching, general education, and a teaching practicum. Teacher certificates are awarded to graduates upon completion of certain courses of study as prescribed by the Primary and Secondary Education Act and the Education Qualification Inspection Ordinance. Prospective teachers are not required to take an examination to obtain a teacher certificate.

However, public school teachers must take a teacher qualification examination, administrated by metropolitan/provincial offers of education, to be appointed to a school. Private schools selected teachers using their own application processes. The examination for public school teachers is three-tired. The primary examination is a written test on pedagogy (20%) and the chosen subject (80%). The second part of the test is an essay writing portion, and third section consists of a practical test, an aptitude test, and an in-depth interview.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Education for the Gifted Children in Korea

Education for the gifted was established not only to respond to the globalized diversified society of the 21st century, but also to develop human resources and guarantee equal opportunity to education that meets the student’s aptitudes and needs, as prescribed by the Constitution of the Republic of Korea. In 2000, the Gifted Students Education Promotion Act set a legal foundation for the education of gifted students and in March of 2002, Education for gifted students was implemented nationwide. The purpose of this program is to help individual students realize their potential and use their talents to build a stronger nation. As of 2008, one school for gifted students and 265 education centers for the gifted were under operation, and 580 classes for the gifted were offered at primary and secondary schools.

Educational institutions for gifted students are divided into schools, special classes, and education centers for the gifted. The institutional arrangements in support of gifted student education include the above-mentioned Gifted Students Education Promotion Act, the gifted Students Education Promotion Committee, and education centers for the gifted. Elementary, middle, and higher schools provide classes for the gifted students. Education centers also offer classes to gifted students.

In 2009, Seoul Science High School is expected to be converted into a school for the gifted. The Primary and Middle School Education Act and the Gifted Education Act designed specialized high schools and other schools for the gifted. As of 2008, about 50,000, or 0.72 percent of elementary and middle school students participated in education for the gifted (Education in Korea, 2009). In 2005, a program was undertaken to identify and educate the gifted children of socioeconomically underprivileged people. Since then, more than 1800 students have joined the program. Unlike applicants for education centers or classes for the gifted, these candidates were selected through critical thinking tests and not subject-oriented test. They were also offered a separate education program.

While the gifted program originally focused on math and science, it gradually expanded to cover informatics, arts, physical education, creative writing, humanities, and social science. It led to the establishment of the Korean National Institute for the Gifted in Arts in September 2008, with the support of government funding. Teachers undergo basic training (60 hours), advanced training (120 hours), and overseas training (60 hours) to acquire the skills necessary for teaching gifted children. The Korea Educational Development Institute (KEDI) and Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), designated as the national research centers for the gifted, conduct research on and develop pedagogy for gifted children.

Women's Resources Development Policy of Korea

The working -age population in Korea has decreased due to the country's low birthrate and aging population. This situation now threatens to lower the nation's potential economic growth rate. Therefore, it is urgent to encourage women's participation in economic activities in order to increase the working-age population. Major advanced countries showed that the rate of women's participation in economic activities rapidly increased, at more than 9 percent on average, in the period when their respective per capita GDPs rose from $10,000 to $20,000. In Korea, however, the rate of women's participation in economic has been stalled at the 50 to the 54 percent range (54.8% in 2007) since 1995, which is 6.3 percent lower than the current average rate of female participation in all OECD countries (61.1 percent).

The Basic Education Act, revised in 2002, included the first provisions for the " Promotion of Gender Equality Education." It promotes the establishment and implementation of the policies on gender equality at the central and local government levels. As a result, gender equality is increasing in education. For example, women are now receiving more years of formal education on average than men.

The ministry expects that by 2012, the percentage of women between 25 and 34 years of age who graduate from universities or colleges will be 49.4%, compared to 43.9% for men (Education in Korea, 2009). These statistics suggest the growth of female human resources through higher education and the development of diverse skills.

Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) has initiated a variety of projects to promote the development and employment of female human resources. To promote gender equality in faculty employment, every three years, national and public universities are required t establish and implement respective employment plans that specify the target ratio of women professors to male professors at each university.

Plans are being implemented to increase the ratio of women to men in school principal and vice-principal positions to 20 percent by 2010, and 30 percent by 2015. Local education authorities are also advised to take appropriate measures to increase the number of women among newly elected superintendents of education, professionals, and teachers in administrative positions.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Great Experience to Visit Donggureung Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty and Dasanchodang

The 25th of September was a nice and interesting day for me. On that day we, the bloggers folks, gathered for the second times. It was organized by Presidential Council on National Branding (PCNB). We were scheduled to meet at 9 am in PCNB office located near Euljiro 3 ga Station. Indeed, it is not far from my place, which is Hyehwa. Yet I was little bit worried whether I could wake up very early or not. I do not wake up early these days, as I do not have any class in this semester, only thesis is left for my course. However, there are always early-raiser friends whom you can ask for help in special days. I used this opportunity and asked one of my friends to wake me up from my sweet dreams. Probably because I was excited, I woke up at 7 am by myself before my friend called me. After getting up, I took one hour to get ready as I had Yaksuk (commitment) to meet other blogger friends, Jaad, Claudia, Ivonne at 8 am in front of our dormitory.

After a long time, getting up in the morning, I felt that I am going to Kyung Hee University to attend my language class as I used to do two years ago almost everyday. However, this day was nice and exciting for me as I was going to visit some historical places with some nice friends. And most importantly “I do not need to pay” for it. Although I had some work that day, but I did not want deprive myself from getting such kind of nice experience.
After meeting with my other friends in front of the dormitory, we started to walk towards Hyehwa subway station to catch subway, a daily company of mine, to go to PCNB office. We were able to enter into the PCNB office before 9 am. We spent some time to find the building of PCNB office even though the officials of PCNB sent us clear map how to go there. As soon as we entered into the seminar room of PCNB, Mr Wonkyu lm told me Woh Ajumma (Married woman). This is because at the first program of PCNB, I sang an Ajumma song. After that, the people of PCNB remembered me as Ajumma and unfortunate enough they think that I like only Ajumma but I told several times them that I like Agassi (Young girl). I think that PCNB officials are not going to forget me because of this Ajumma song. Anyway, if I get any other opportunity to sing I would not mind to sing Ajumma song again. I love this song.

After sitting in the seminar room of PCNB for a while, some staff distributed us photographs of the last tour along with sandwiches and drinks. I was happier to get some food than getting photographs. It always feels nice when someone offers me free meal. I was a little bit hungry. So, I did not take much time to finish my sandwich and drink. Yummy Yummy…. Actually, when I feel hungry, I cannot concentrate in other things. After full stomach, I can give full concentration for everything, even skydiving, for example. My stomach and concentration is interrelated. However, after satisfying my stomach, with full concentration I started to listen as a very obedient blogger to every single words of Mr. Wonkyu lm, who was explaining about the tour of the day.

Not many people were able to join at that day tour, may be because of the program held in a weekday. Mr. Wonkyu lm started to explain about our day tour by asking the question, “What is history? What can we learn from the History?” He also asked me this question. I gave my opinion. Anyway, I do not know whether he likes my opinion or not. After getting opinions form us, he turns on the projector and gave us some information about visiting spots indicating to projector screen. Actually, I always like the taste of ancient and historical places. When I heard that we are going to visit some historical places, I told myself “Woh Great”. After a short orientation of the program, we started our day tour around 10 a.m. But we had to wait inside the bus about 15 minutes as one of our friends from Myanmar, could not able to find PCNB office in the scheduled time. Our bus started to run towards Donggureung as soon as our friend arrived.

It took 40 minutes only from the PCNB office to Donggureung, where many royal tombs of Joseon Dynasty are located. When we reached in Donggureung, a guide gave us some information about the place at a glance. And then we entered into the royal tombs of the Jaseon Dynasty. As soon as passing through the gate, I felt I went back to the Jaseon dynasty era and as if I were one of the big officials of Joseon Dynasty. It was nice to see such kind of dream. At that moment, all our friends were looking very curious and taking photographs of the every part of the royal tombs.

The Royal tombs of the Joseon Dynasty are a group of tombs of members of the Korean Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The tombs have been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2009. Joseon-era royal tombs followed the guidelines outlined in Chinese Confucian texts, such as the Book of Rites (Li Ji) and the Rites of Zhou (Zhou Li). Many factors went into consideration when deciding the location of a tomb, such as the distance from Hanyang, the distance in relation to other royal tombs, the accessibility of the location, and Korean traditions of pungsu (geomancy). The tomb construction also took into account traditional burial rituals of Korea and the natural environment. This cluster of tombs represents the best sample of royal family group tombs from the Joseon Dynasty. Seven kings and ten queens are interred in nine Neung-type tombs. Famous tombs in this group include the Geonwolleung tomb for King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty.
The tomb of the King Taejo has some special features, for example; the king tomb is made such a way that the people cannot see the tomb from near. They need to keep some distances from the tomb to see it. Our guide was describing us how to show respect to the king. Two of our friends attended in demonstration session to show us how to go to the king tomb. I could not resist myself to join that demonstration session with my friends. Our guide told us that there are two paths to go to the tomb of the king. We used the path which is for general people like us. There is a small room just right side on the way to go to the king tomb where there are two stones, one is six hundreds years and another one nineteen hundreds years to respect the king.

Most of our friends tried to take photos of those two ancient stones and the tomb of the King Taejo. One of our Brazilian friends, Agatha was very busy in taking photos from different angles and was curious to know about everything related with the place even though the age of the trees. I was also motivated to know everything to see her.

After experiencing the royal tombs of the Joseon Dynasty, we started our journey for another exciting experience to the Dasan Chodang. It took 40 minutes to go there from Donggureung. After walking and preserving all kind of knowledge into our short term memory, the neuron of the brain which is responsible for hungriness, was reminding us that our stomach want some food. I think that the driver realized our situation and he stopped the bus just in front of a nice restaurant in Dasan Chodang. As I was very hungry (I think that it is my problem, always I feel hungry), I just jumped over to the food. I did not feel shy to take two plates of rice and ordered more fishes for me. After fulfill my stomach we started our main vision, which is visiting Dasanchodang to look around the Jeong Yak-Yong or Dasan’s valuable work.
Jeong Yak-yong, also Jeong Yag-yong or Dasan (1762–1836), was a leading Korean religious philosopher during the Joseon Dynasty. He is commonly regarded as the greatest of the Silhak thinkers, who advocated that the formalist Neo- Confucian religious philosophy of Joseon return to practical concerns. Jeong Yag-yong and his brothers were also among the earliest Korean converts to Roman Catholicism.

Jeong is known above all for his work in synthesizing the Neo-Confucian thought of middle Joseon. In the process, he wrote widely in fields including law, political theory, and the Confucian Classics. He sought to return Confucian scholarship to a direct connection with the original thought of Confucius. He called this return to the classics "Susa" learning, a reference to the two rivers that flowed through Confucius' homeland.

Dasanchodang is a little thatched cottage where Jeong Yag-yong lived for 10 years of his banishment. It is at the foot of the Manduk Mountain, which has a nickname, ‘Dasan’ from which he derived his pen name. In this place, he devoted himself to studying and teaching young students. Moreover, he wrote more than 500 books including Mokminsimseo which provided guidelines for local officials to govern people.

Dasanchodang consists of three buildings. ‘Chodang’ the largest building, where Jeong Yak-yong lived, is located at the center. Seoam (the west hermitage) and Dongam (the east hermitage) stand on its left and right sides, respectively. Seoam is the building where his students stayed and Dongam is the place where Dasan used to reside and wrote his books. Originally, the three buildings were thatch-roofed houses but they were restored and changed to tiled-roofed houses in 1970. I could feel how he lived and his strong passion for study even though some parts of the place and cottages had changed with time.

Around Dasanchodang, there are four major spots related to Dasan. Dajo is a wide rock on which he made tea and drank it. As he loved tea, he chose ‘Dasan’, which means ‘tea tree hill’, for a pen name. Next to Dajo, there are Yeonjiseokgasan, a small pond with a heap of stones. At that time, he mobilized workmen and created ‘Seokgasan’, a three-story heap of stones around the pond.

It was more beautiful than a real mountain and got the name Yeonjiseokgasan. Then, climbing up between two houses, Seoam and Chodang, I saw a huge rock named Jeongseok Rock. Dasan inscribed his surname ‘Jeong’ on the rock just before returning to Seoul. This rock is a little high off the ground, but it’s worth the climb.

As I drew closer its message became clear to me. It symbolizes his upright personality and firm resolution not to be daunted by political hardships and to live for social reform. ‘Live right and frankly,’ that is Dasan’s message to us all.

Finally, we visited the Dasan Legacy Museum where Dasan’s undisclosed articles were exhibited during the Gangjin celadon Porcelain Festival. It was a great experience for me. Many people visited there, became interested in Dasan and began to see him as one of Korea’s most prominent scholars. In addition, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism selected the banishment road of Dasan Jeong Yak-yong for one of the country’s road restoration projects. They have chosen roads with culture, history and nature to give people a historic and meaningful message. As Dasan’s articles and his road were chosen by the ministry for their project, we could see that they are more than just relics of one person’s banishment.

Walking along the road Dasan, I could feel his strong spirit and desire to live a clear and meaningful life. He used hardship to improve himself. In these aspects, Dasan is worthy of our respect and I think people have to visit there and recognize them. Sometimes when we face hardship we complain that we can’t endure it, because of our poor environment and arduous work. That is not true. It is because of the way we think, our inner mind. I was very surprised to observe his work and knowing about him. How much this noble guy was devoted to his work and what am I doing? Writing my thesis only I am getting tired.

Anyway, after visiting the exhibition hall, it was time to return to Seoul according to our schedule. Before leaving Dasanchodang, our PCNB officials did not forget to present a small gift to our guide who gave us a lot of valuable information about Dasan what if we can follow one-third in our life, I am sure that our next generation will never forget us. This tour could successfully teach me what we learn from the History.