중앙데일리

Seniors take advantage of lifelong education

Higher learning helps retirees navigate life after the work force

June 06,2015
Na Yeong-bong, an engineer and a reporter, left, covers festivities for Buddha’s Birthday at a temple in Bongcheon-dong, Gwanak District, in southwestern Seoul. Na’s reports are broadcast by the local news station each week. By Oh Jong-taek
On weekdays Na Yeong-bong, 56, works as an engineer at a Seoul Metro electricity management office. But on weekends, he roams the city as a reporter in search of stories.

Two years ago, Na happened upon an advertisement for the School of Journalism at the Gwanak Lifelong Learning Center.

The center, located in southwestern Seoul, is one of many institutes throughout the city that aims to improve the lives of senior citizens, low-income people and other vulnerable populations through education.

The Gwanak Lifelong Learning Center offers courses in a variety of different fields including computer science, languages and art in addition to journalism classes.

“Even though I’ve worked my whole life as an engineer, I immediately signed up, figuring it was time I fed off words,” Na admitted.

Since then, he’s gained a significant base of knowledge, diligently attending his journalism courses, receiving one-on-one instruction from his professor and getting first-hand reporting experience. Just last year, one of Na’s reports made it into a local broadcast, and after that, his stories have provided him with a modest regular income.

“Though it isn’t much, it gives me a sense of pride,” he said.

In this era of semi-retirement, when most people must continue working beyond retirement to sustain themselves, lifelong learning is meant as a way to nurture baby boomers - those born between 1955 and 1963. Yet, not many prepare for life after retirement through education.

In a survey last year by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, 2,688 of the 4,101 baby boomers questioned responded that they wanted to receive lifelong education. However, 79.5 percent of respondents, or 3,260 baby boomers, stated that they had never experienced lifelong-learning education.

“Most of those facing retirement realize the need for lifelong education but, because of limited time, they often give up,” said Cho Mi-suk, who heads Seoul Lifelong Learning.

Nonetheless, some persist.

Kim Young-ae, 48, was in charge of financial affairs for a hospital before she retired early this year. Kim, who had always worked well with her hands, took a class on interior woodworking last year at Woman Up, the Seodaemun Women Resources Development Center in Seoul.

The class helped her build a woodworking workshop near Hongje Elementary School in northern Seoul, and she even received financial support from her classmates, who chipped in funds for the project.

“In order to be employed after retirement, education must take precedence,” said Kim Young-chul, the director of the Seoul Metropolitan Institute for Lifelong Education.

The institute guides Seoul district offices in creating effective education programs.

Currently, 17 districts in Seoul operate lifelong-learning centers. Dobong District in northeastern Seoul offers sustainable agriculture courses for urban farmers, and Eunpyeong District in northwestern Seoul offers a popular course that invites hidden experts - citizens who boast a wide variety of talents and abilities - to share their knowledge.

Courses from different districts are available online on the Seoul Lifelong Learning Portal, and on individual lifelong-learning center websites in different districts.

And more lifelong-learning course options appear to be on the way.

“We have plans to strategically create lifelong-learning centers in areas [of Seoul] like Gangnam and Jongno, where there are a lot of large corporations,” said Kim, the director.

BY KIM NA-HAN [enational@joongang.co.kr]


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