[PINOY VOICES] Global education, Korea-styleIn March 2009, I began a special detail as visiting professor at Linton Global College in Hannam University in Daejeon.
I was bracing for the worst. I’d heard unpleasant stories from colleagues at the University of the Philippines who hadn’t renewed their contracts with other Korea-based universities: housing in shabby apartments, lower-than-agreed-upon salaries, hardheaded Korean students, difficulty communicating. One colleague had even foregone his pension and other benefits just so he wouldn’t have to communicate with his one-time colleagues in Korea.
That I had no information from people who’d taught at HNU itself contributed more to my anxiety. From what I learned on HNU’s Web site, LGC was formed only in 2005, making it an academic infant. And I expected to feel the growing pains as LGC improved its academic programs and increased its number of students.
Fortunately for me, whatever pangs LGC underwent in its first few years were barely apparent when I entered; the curricular programs and the operational systems were already in place.
While my aforementioned colleagues at UP had to deal with students and teachers who barely spoke English, LGC has an all-international faculty who are native speakers of the language. And the mostly Korean students must demonstrate a firm command of English before admission. What’s more, an English-only policy is imposed not only inside the classrooms but also inside the student dormitory.
I have to admit that I sometimes cannot keep myself from speaking in Filipino with exchange students and LGC staff who come from my country. But even if the Korean LGC students are wont to speak in their own language during breaks, their English skills are still put to the test through discussions conducted by their foreign professors, the majority of whom are not familiar with Hangul. Their writing skills, on the other hand, are developed through their academic papers in English. Some of the more advanced English writers help edit and write for “Global Horizons,” LGC’s student publication.
But the global environment at LGC is not limited to teaching grammar, syntax and diction. LGC does not function like an English tutorial center. It offers four-year degree programs in two fields: global business and global communication and culture.
The global environment is manifested by the students’ interaction with the international faculty. They somehow manage to make the necessary adjustments as they attend classes conducted by non-Korean professors. Through constant exposure to various accents, they get used to the nuances of the English language as it’s spoken in different cultures. The LGC approach works well for the students in that they become sensitive to various cultures and less judgmental of the differences between them.
LGC professors also organize activities to further develop the students’ proficiency - Town Hall meetings, cultural nights, Christmas carol services, poetry readings. There is also a conscious effort to inform students of available internships, volunteer work or study-abroad programs.
Indeed, LGC students are encouraged to make the most out of their free time, particularly their 11-week breaks during summer and winter. During my stay at HNU, I noticed that LGC students were very active in various conferences held in Daejeon and Seoul. Events organizers who acknowledge their higher level of English proficiency would sometimes request the HNU dean to send students who could work as translators.
That LGC is the first school of its kind in Korea would explain the substantial media coverage it got when it was established in 2005. It is unfortunate that the same media attention was not evident last year, when the first graduation was held on June 13. There were 12 graduates, five of whom graduated last summer and seven during this winter season. LGC statistics show that the winter graduates have 100 percent employment, and higher Toefl grades than most North American graduate schools require.
LGC does not give its students the false illusion that English is a quick ticket to success. I’d like to think that despite their constant exposure to English, LGC students maintain their identity: They remain proud of their native language in particular and their culture in general.
There is more to progress than knowing the language of the so-called globalized world. At LGC, Korea has established a global education system that uses English as medium of instruction - and it’s proved to be an excellent example.
*The writer is a visiting professor at Hannam University’s Linton Global College.
by Danilo Arao