Jeju’s Special Self-Governing Province has developed various innovative ways to boost the island’s global image. Undoubtedly, teaching foreign language skills to locals is an essential element of Jeju’s success in the global market. Because this is so important, Jeju’s government has established The Foreign Language Centers to offer free after-school education.
The first, Jeju City Center, designed and built nearly eight years ago, is located in Gu Jeju near the KAL Hotel. It was created as an affordable alternative to the expensive hagwon (private academy) industry and offers free lessons for children in English, Japanese and Chinese. Four years later, in January 2007, the Hallim Center opened, followed by the Seongsan Center in May 2008, and the Seogwipo Center in January of the following year. Currently, a new center in Shin Jeju, located inside Jeju High School, is under construction and scheduled to open in May 2010.
Overseeing all the centers are director Jin Woo Jong and assistant director Kang Sang Moo. They are supported by many supervisors across the four centers. Specifically, Moon Hong Cheol and Kang Kum Jin work to bridge language barriers between the Korean supervisors and the foreign language instructors.
Working at the centers offers a unique experience, Kang Kum Jin said. “Actually, there is so much variety in this job. [It] allows me to meet students in elementary school all the way up to adults. We do camps and outreaches and everything is so different and fun!”
▲ English-language teachers Michael Laidman, top, and Kendra Pugh, below, forefront, working with students at The Foreign Language Centers, sponsored by the provincial government. Photos by Arielle Ballou
Students can watch English, Japanese or Chinese movies in the centers’ computer labs; use interactive foreign-language learning programs; and watch foreign-language television. Tuesdays through Thursdays, the centers offer conversation classes for elementary and middle school students from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Adult conversation classes are held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The centers also include simulation labs, where children can experience speaking a foreign language in real-life settings. These classes are held in the afternoons and nearby schools are invited to bring students to them on field trips. Kim Ji Young, Sim-Lab director at Jeju City Center, said, “By ‘doing’ English in the Sim-Lab, it’s easier for students to remember, instead of just studying, they are ‘doing.’” Operating hours for all centers are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Currently, there are 14 English teachers across the four sites, seven in Jeju City, two in Hallim, two in Seongsan and three in Seogwipo. Emma Todd, from the United States, began working at Jeju City Center after two years at the Foreign Language High School. She said, “At the Center we’re more a part of the foreigner community, but not so much a part of the local Jeju community. When you work at public schools, the school, the moms, and the co-teachers make you feel really important to the education system, whereas here we feel more like we’re performing a community service.”
Brett Crehan, also from the United States, works at Seogwipo Center and likens his job to being at a hagwon. “Classes take place after regular schooling has finished for the day, there is no clear, formal academic goal, and students are rotated in and out of classes in a manner similar to hagwon.”
There are some important differences, however. Fellow American Nick Cook, who is about to finish his third contract at Jeju City Center, said, “The most important aspect to the center is that the classes are free [for the students], which gives the teachers the freedom to teach how they want to teach. Unlike hagwon, we don’t have to pander to the wants and wills of the parents - we can construct classes they way we want to.”
For more information, call Jeju City Center, where the staff speak English and Korean, on 064-766-3322.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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