All together now
The responsibility for our education system does not wholly belong to schools and teachers. Only when society as a whole joins hands can the quality of education be improved.
This theory has been proven by the educational experiment that Gangjin County in South Jeolla Province has conducted. The local scholarship foundation based on donations from residents has revived public education in the area. The agricultural region, with a population of 40,000, created the fund four years ago to prevent people from leaving their hometown due to the poor public education on offer there. Over 10,000 residents have donated, and the fund has raked in 10 billion won. It is an amazing success story for these people whose dream was to educate their sons and daughters, but who couldn’t due to poverty.
When the number of students was on the decline, the scholarship foundation launched efforts to revitalize the school system. Every year the fund distributed a combined 2 billion won to different schools. Students showing outstanding academic performance were given scholarships. The foundation has also invited famous lecturers to hold free classes for students preparing for essay exams. At times, the fund provided extracurricular programs.
Thanks to those efforts, the number of students from Gangjin admitted to universities in the Seoul metropolitan area has tripled over the past four years. Some schools that used to see their students drain out are even accepting children from other towns now. Gangjin County truly deserves the miracle it has created.
There are a variety of methods for local societies to participate in their education system. Unlike Gangjin, Busan’s Nam District supports their public schools with human resources rather than financial aid. The district has trained 200 residents and dispatched them to after-school programs that offer counseling and reading programs. Five local universities, including Pukyong National University, send their professors and lecturers out as mentors for elementary and middle school students who fall behind in their studies.
Corporations, private organizations and the army need to get involved in programs that support public education. Employees at GM Daewoo Auto and Technology in Bucheon near Seoul runs English and computer classes at middle schools nearby. Researchers at the Hyundai-Kia group and Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology visit schools and demonstrate scientific experiments. A unit of the Korean Air Force has mobilized some of its soldiers to teach English conversation and other skills to students at middle school in the neighboring area.