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ESL Focusing on Hands-On Learning

Posted September. 20, 2006 06:07,   


English education experts all agree that the best way to develop children’s English skills while cutting down on education costs is to increase the competitiveness of public schools and education, and create more English-speaking environment.

Recently English villages have sprouted to offer children a chance to experience an English-oriented environment and Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) classes are giving English teachers a chance to improve their teaching skills. Village signboards and government documents are written in Korean and English. English is used like a semi-official language.

Gyeonggi English Village Paju Camp-

“Are you ready?” “Yes!” “Ok, Let’s go!”

Joanna Pink and about 20 of her students are dropping parachutes made of toothpicks and paper one by one from the second floor. All the conversation is in English. Park Jong-min (age: 12, grade: 6) cheerfully said, “I received a lecture on gravity in English. I understood most of it.”

Gyeonggi English Village Paju Camp, the biggest English village in Korea, opened this April and has served some 420 thousand children. 130 thousand children participated in the programs. An average of five thousand visit every day.

What makes Gyeonggi English Village stand out is that a variety of learning through experience programs like cookie making, music video making, and broadcasting in English.

Kwon Eun-hee, the leader of the Planning Team at Gyeonggi English Village, says, “The programs cannot help students improve their English all of a sudden. What we focus on is encouraging students to accept English naturally and to get interested in it, instead of viewing it as just another subject to study.

Weekend TESOL class at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies -

Lecturer Michelle Trottier shows teachers two books and asks, “What is the difference between the two textbooks?” She is in the middle of lecturing 16 English teachers, teaching on topics such as English teaching methods and teaching material making. Only English was used for this lecture.

When one teacher answers, “The textbook on the right has more blank spots.” The lecturer nods her head and explains, “Textbooks with lots of blank spots allow for a more creative class.”

Yoon Ji-yeong (age: 24, female), who taught an English class at Incheon Sindae Elementary School, said, “The teacher is the biggest factor that decides the quality of an English class. There must be more support for English teachers wanting to develop their skills.

Free Economic Zones, a test site for English as a semi-official language-

In the three Free Economic Zones–Incheon, Busan/Jinhae, and Gwangyang Bay Area–government documents are processed in English.

Commissioner Jang Soo-man of the Busan/Jinhae Free Economic Zone said last May, “We must accept English as an official language in Free Economic Zones in order to attract foreign companies.”

In two elementary schools in each Free Economic Zone, immersion classes are being experimented with. In immersion classes, subjects like math and science will be taught in English. From 2008, these schools will adopt English immersion programs. After the program is evaluated, it will be offered to other schools from 2010.

Many European countries have wrestled with new English teaching methods.

The Netherlands adopted Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) for its middle and high schools in 1989. Today, more than 90 schools use this method and teach subjects like history, geography, biology, and music in English.

Kastellet Elementary and Middle School in Oslo, Norway, integrates English and social studies. The teachers write their own teaching material without the help of native English speakers.

Vice-principal Toril Loegen of the schools says, “If we teach social studies in English, the students develop their English skills naturally. The teachers prepare the teaching material and improve their education methods through discussion among themselves.”