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An Overview of Korean Culture and History Education at Yongsan International School of Seoul

Robert Southard
Robert Southard
Teacher, Yongsan International School of Seoul
While Yongsan International School of Seoul seeks to provide its students a broad International education and its curriculum is rooted in the American education traditions, we value our host country and hope to provide our students with ample opportunity to learn about the rich history of Korea and experience its vibrant culture. The primary means by which YISS accomplishes this are its Korean language offerings, cultural events and trips, and reliance on outside experts.

YISS offers students in all three divisions (elementary, middle, and high schools) the opportunity to take Korean language courses. Approximately 275 YISS students are currently enrolled in Korean language courses. This includes classes on each grade level in grades 1-5, three classes in grades 6-8, and four classes in grades 9-12. Within their Korean language courses, students are also often learning about the wider Korean culture. An elementary class, for example, would be likely to include instruction on Korean holidays and foods while advanced high school class might utilize Korean works of literature. In addition to language course offerings, YISS plans a number of annual cultural activities.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has limited our ability to offer our "normal" range of activities, YISS has a long-standing tradition of planning annual activities that celebrate and educate our students about Korean culture, past and present. On the elementary level, students participate in the annual "Celebrate Korea" week. The event is all-encompassing and includes a variety of educational activities and field trips for students in grades K-5. Some of the activities our students engage in that week include special lessons on Korean history, hands-on activities like kimbap making in Kindergarten, and trips to significant historical locations like Gyeongbokgung Palace, Namhansanseong Fortress, the National Museum, and the Lotte Folk Museum. In Middle School, students also engage in an annual week-long activity which exposes them to a variety of Korean cultural experiences. In their "Week Without Walls", students travel to special locations to and learn about Korean geography, agriculture, and art. For middle schoolers, the 8th grade year culminates in an overnight trip to Jeju. For our high school students, the annual service trips offer several local trips during which students experience Korean culture firsthand. While activities and trips are utilized in educating its students about its host country, YISS also relies on relationships with others.

One final means of educating its students about Korean language, history, and culture is YISS's partnerships with outside experts. One example of these special partnerships includes participating in the periodic teacher events hosted by the National Museum and working with the National Museum staff to create customize trips and experiences for our students. Another example of a valuable partnership is guest speakers in educational forums and seminars for our students and teachers. The middle school hosts a number of Korean authors to present to its students on Korean literature through its parent/community talks program. Recently, YISS was pleased to host Dr. Leighanne Yuh of Korea University's Korean History department who presented on "Korea and the West: A comparison of cultural and intellectual values from a historical perspective." Additionally, the high school welcomes a number of guest speakers during its "Career Day" event who often present on topics relevant to Korean culture and history. In the most recent Career Day before the COVID-19 pandemic, YISS welcomed Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee to present to students about her experiences in Korean public service.

YISS is pleased to offer its students many opportunities to learn Korean culture, language, and history through its language course offerings, annual events, and relationships with experts. By attending today's conference, YISS hopes to learn from the Ministry of Education and from other schools participating and enhance the educational opportunities YISS students have to learn about our host country.

[ Announcement of "2020 Understanding Korea Project for International School Educators" ]

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