The South Korean education system is very different to ours. However the similarity remains that the primary aim of schooling is to produce fine and able adults of the future. In fact we were struck with the amount of importance placed on education as a means to improving life chances. Several different people explained to us how children in Korea commonly go to after-school tuition and work extremely hard on their studies. Parental pressure to ensure their child is successful in getting into a good university seems the norm.
To ensure that learning continues when children are at home, the Government have created an electronic text book. This is an e-learning tool which is an online version of the Government approved text books used by teachers. The electronic textbook covers lessons taken in school and thus children can progress at a faster pace through accessing the textbook at home. The textbook contains, cartoon animations, films and text which can be annotated and returned to the teacher to be marked.
We also saw examples of the electronic textbook being used during class. Each child was given a netbook and was able to follow the lesson as directed by the teacher. A screen at the front helped the teacher to monitor what the children were doing and examples of children’s work could be displayed before the class on the interactive whiteboard. The idea of a resource that is accessible in school and at home which will help children to access the learning content of the day is something that we are beginning to work on in terms of a learning platform. The e-learning tool is also accessible to parents via a system called NAIS which holds data on children. Again this is something that we are beginning to do in schools, but it is currently in its early stages with parental learning platform logins being rolled out over the next year.
One of the most striking comparisons was the children’s ability to engage with technology. The children that we saw effortlessly interfaced with a range of ICT. Their typing speed was incredibly fast and they had an excellent awareness of multi-medias. Much of this comes from living in a society where access to new technology at home is routine. Nearly every household in Korea has a PC and children come to school able to use a PC. Although ICT classes are held in schools, the children do not need to be shown basic skills. At High School (16-18) we saw children learning about CAD technology, robotics and computer programming. Facilities in this specialist school were very advanced and impressive. In fact in all the Elementary schools we visited we were amazed by the amount of ICT resources they had at their disposal. All the schools had a broadcasting studio, numerous ICT suites and a range of advanced interactive technologies in the classroom including plasma TVs.
In Shing Wang Elementary school we saw a particularly good use of the plasma TV screens in an English lesson. By linking the TV to a laptop, the class was able to skype a native English speaking teacher in America who team taught the lesson with a Korean teacher. Web cams and mics were used to allow the children and the American teacher to interact visually with one another thus enhancing the children’s emersion in the English language. This is a model that we are keen to explore in order to develop the teaching of French within our school.
In conclusion, this experience has broadened our horizons and helped us to understand the need to enhance the use of ICT in school. After all, our children are going to be competing for jobs in an ever shrinking global market against children who are very versatile in their ubiquitous use of ICT.
It has also been a great pleasure to work with teachers from other schools and we hope to continue to strengthen the network between schools in the county as well as global links.
Jacinta and Hannah