Village lessonsThe English villages that regional governments in Korea have spent millions of dollars are not making ends meet.
Twenty-one English villages in the country are in the red, living off subsidies, the prime minister’s office has said.
There was criticism from the beginning. Some critics said the construction of the villages was nothing more than politically motivated moves to attract voters.
Regional governments invested heavily in the villages without much consideration for educational demand.
As a result, half of them are concentrated in the Seoul metropolitan area and some are only a two to three minutes’ drive from each other.
Most of them offer short-term programs lasting only a few days, which means they cannot satisfy the original purpose of complementing English education at schools and substituting costly English learning programs abroad.
It is highly unlikely that a student’s English proficiency will improve by attending a one-off program at one of these villages. Instead, we would be in a much better position if the government improved public education to allow more students more exposure to English over a longer period of time.
As of April, there are 4,303 native English-speaking teachers in schools in the country, enough to cover only one-third of the schools here.
With the money to build large English villages, we can double the number of native English-speaking teachers. The areas that cannot be covered by public education can be dealt with by offering after-school programs at a low cost for ordinary people who cannot afford to provide their children with English education. In that sense, the government’s decision to send 400 ethnic Koreans living abroad and foreigners this year to rural areas to teach English after school was the right thing to do.
The government should find ways to incorporate English villages with school education to create synergy. The success of English education depends on high-quality teachers and programs rather than showy facilities. The villages should not most one-time events and the central, and regional governments should prioritize their spending.