English education takes a step upward

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English education takes a step upward

In a country flooded with English study materials, the ability to choose the best books is always a tricky matter. Pick the wrong text, and you might end up learning Spanish. Well, you could at least end up really frustrated.

But that pressure is not only on the people buying the materials. It's also on those producing them.

The nation's first graduate school that focuses exclusively on English education and the production of English teaching materials, the International Graduate School of English, was built to develop local talent interested in working for what has become a multimillion-dollar industry -- the English book market.

"Like food, there are harmful texts and good texts," says Moon Yong the president of the school.

For Mr. Moon, who did most of his schooling during the '50s, theory and practice are not at all equal, especially in the classroom. As a founding faculty member of the English Education Department at Seoul National University, he has produced many prominent professors and journalists who now form a major part of Korean intellectual circles. But in his 30-years career, Mr. Moon regrets that much of his training has been based on theory rather than practice. "For my years to come, I want to focus on practical skills for students to learn high-quality English," says Mr. Moon.

He is ambitious, which is one of the reasons why, at the age of 72, he accepted an invitation by the newly starting school. Located near the Olympic Park, the school is taking applications for both practicing English teachers who want to develop their teaching skills and for those wanting to produce English-related multimedia materials.

The master's programs are divided into English education and English language teaching. The school recently caught media attention for announcing that it was offering full scholarships to all students admitted to the school. Funded by Yoon's English Academy -- a large corporate franchise that produces English educational materials and assigns private tutors at homes -- the curriculum at the school is the first program of its kind in Korea.

"Korea is flooded with English-language teaching materials," Mr. Moon says. "But many of them are not based on the psychology of learning and not tailored to the needs and levels of learners. Most of ELT materials have been prepared and made by nonspecialists, who have not been trained properly."

With the school's opening in September, it also plans to open an audio-visual library equipped with a diverse range of books, CD-ROMs and audiotapes about general linguistics and second-language research to general public. Along with the books, the library will also provide a complete database of theses, dissertations and articles released through Korean journals.

The school is considered an alternative form of education in that it attempts to minimize the academic training offered compared to many other postgraduate institutions in Korea. The smaller classes (the total number of students in school is 100) and its specialized training is similar to the European style of teaching.

by Park Soo-mee

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