Teacher embraces Korean culture

Twelve New Zealand secondary school teachers experienced the contrasts of Korea on the 2015 Korea Studies Workshop in September.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation worked with the Korea Foundation and Australia’s Asia Education Foundation on the programme, which consisted of lectures at Ewha University in Seoul, school visits, and field trips to historic sites. The group also travelled to a traditional clan village, and visited the factory of multinational steel giant POSCO.

Wellington Girls’ College social studies, geography, history and tourism teacher Tauira Scott-Patterson (Raukawa, Ngati Hinerangi) shares her experiences of the trip.

Tauira Scott-Patterson (back) and fellow Korea Studies Workshop teachers pose with guides in the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul

Why were you interested in the Korea Studies Workshop?

Before this trip, I hadn’t travelled far from Aotearoa. In fact, Korea is now the furthest I have been from this land! But I have always had a keen interest in understanding the world I live in.

I saw this programme as an exciting opportunity to immerse myself in Korean and Asian cultures and natural environments. I also wanted to learn more about the significance of Korea and other Asian countries to New Zealand society.

Due to my own Maori background, I am also interested in cultural identity and practices; I believe an important part of being a citizen of this world is learning about and teaching different ways in which people use and perceive our world.

What were the highlights of the workshop for you?

The highlight for me was visiting the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea. This was an amazing opportunity, especially visiting tunnels built by North Koreans and viewing North Korea from afar. This is something I will never forget.

Another highlight was having the opportunity to listen to a North Korean defector talk about her experiences living in, and leaving, the North. Visiting a Korean high school was also a great experience.

What were the key things you learnt?

One of the key things was how the education system works in Korea. Teachers and teaching practice is highly valued and seen as the way of improving Korea’s social and economic future. Education therefore receives a significant amount of investment compared to New Zealand.

We didn’t get to see teaching in practice on our trip but from what I observed from our school visits, teaching in Korea does have its differences to New Zealand. Teaching hours are longer, and the strategies used for lesson topics and assessing work are also different.  I found devices were used less often in the classroom compared to New Zealand. However, there are similarities in teaching subjects and extracurricular activities.

Why do you think it’s important for your students to have an understanding of South Korea?

Fifty-five percent of students in New Zealand feel they are not prepared for engaging with the peoples and cultures of Asia in New Zealand, yet almost one in four people living in our largest city (Auckland) are of Asian descent. By 2021, this figure will grow to one in three (30%). New Zealand’s Asian population is growing so fast that by 2026, the Asian population will almost be the same as our Maori population.

New Zealanders are interacting with South Korea and wider Asia more than ever before. This cultural mix will change the way we identify ourselves in the future so we need to equip our students with cultural competency and language skills. In doing this we will ensure our youth thrive in a globalised world.

How will you use what you learnt in the classroom?

I plan to create units of work from the resources I collected on my trip, particularly for year 9 and 10 social studies. At year 9, I plan to create a unit of work based on a comparison of education and schooling between Korea and New Zealand. At year 10, I plan to create a human rights unit of work based on some of the experiences of North Korean defectors.