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Education chief Lee hints at English cutsIncoming superintendent signals changes to language education amid support for multicultural and Jeju Massacre education
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승인 2014.07.02  07:21:48
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▲ Lee Seokmun held a press conference in the Provintial Office of Education before the small inauguration ceremony during which he reiterated many of his election pledges. Photo by Kim Jinmi

A small inauguration ceremony was held on July 1 at Jeju Students Cultural Center in Jeju City for Lee Seok-moon, the new education superintendent. He introduced himself to the press under the slogan, “Joyful Jeju Education through Consideration and Cooperation.”

Lee, who becomes the 15th Jeju education superintendent and takes over from Yang Seong-eun, who held the position for 10 years, is keen to move away from exam-driven approaches and hinted at changes to language learning and 4.3 peace education. He urged teachers to perform not for the education office, but for their fellow citizens and Jeju children. Stating that he will “not give up, even on one child,” he outlined a student-centered future for Jeju education.

“We provide direction and guidance for students who excel in their studies; for those struggling, we give systematic attention and encouragement,” he said.

The Jeju Weekly editor, Darren Southcott, was at the ceremony and asked Lee about his plans for the English Program In Korea (EPIK) following its recent scaling back across the nation. Lee merely stated he will “adjust English native-speaker [teacher] numbers,” adding that there are “many diverse ways to learn other languages.”

During the election campaign Lee pointed out that 90 percent of foreign language teachers employed by the province are English teachers. He proposed to cut these numbers and employ more teachers from Southeast Asian nations as part of his multicultural education program.

▲ The Provincial Office of Education opens the Lee Seokmun era under the slogan "Joyful Jeju Education through Consideration and Cooperation." Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province

Although just 1 percent (410) of elementary students are of mixed heritage, 10 percent of marriages now involve at least one non-Korean spouse. Lee wants to prepare for a similar number of “multicultural” children in Korean elementary schools and he will invite highly-qualified teachers with Korean language skills from prestigious universities in Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia to teach languages and culture.

A central election pledge of Lee’s was to implement a more systematic 4.3 (or Jeju Massacre) education program in schools. He feels 4.3 is essential to Jeju identity and he will create a 4.3 Peace Education Committee to manage the classes from elementary third grade until the second grade of high school.

“I will find practical ways for the bereaved families of 4.3 to share their stories with students in classes during a 4.3 education week,” said Lee, adding that he will also promote teacher training on the subject alongside Jeju National University and educational colleges.

As he prepared to take up office he also promised to work alongside the incoming governor Won in building Jeju Free International City through a world-class education. He also vowed to provide incentives for Jeju students entering foreign universities in order for Jeju to be “the center of Asia.”

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