September 3, 1999
Korean teacher-exchange program keeps on ticking
KTEP celebrates 15 with U of A
For more than a decade, about 300 Korean English teachers have sauntered through the Rocky Mountains and shopped at West Edmonton Mall while on break from their studies with U of A education professors.
The Korean Teachers of English Program (KTEP) was founded 15 years ago, spearheaded by Dr. Ted Aoki, Department of Secondary Education, to immerse junior and high-school teachers of English in the language, culture and pedagogy of their U of A colleagues in the Faculty of Education. In celebration, Dr. Byong-doo Kim, superintendent of the Kangwon-Do Office of Education, joined the U of A and Alberta Learning Deputy Minister Maria David-Evans in a celebratory lunch in July with this year's crop of participants.
Despite recent economic woes, said Kim, the Korean government saw fit to continue supporting the group of more than 20 teachers to head to Edmonton this year. The Korean government provides travel dollars and pays the participants' salaries. And for the past 15 years, the province of Alberta, which is twinned with Kangwon province, has also provided support through Advanced Education, now called Alberta Learning.
"One of our strongest alumni supporters from Korea is a graduate of KTEP," said a smiling Bilash.
Such an established exchange has helped to increase awareness of the University of Alberta in Asia, said Dr. Doug Owram, vice-president (academic) and provost. "We now get inquiries from all over Asia, looking at KTEP as a model program."
Owram noted half of the English teachers working for the Kangwon-Do Office of Education are graduates of KTEP.
"Where are the other half?" joked Owram to the lunch crowd at the Faculty Club.
The Korean teachers weren't the only ones learningI entered the classroom 15 minutes before the start time of the class to find everyone there sitting upright in white shirts and ties, suit jackets on, trying to look awake after their long trip and late arrival. I tried to relax everyone with some friendly conversation and then launched into a course outline and review of what the program was about.
As the morning progressed, I asked a lot of open-ended questions and was bewildered by the lack of response from the group. Were they understanding anything I said? At lunch time, I sat with the supervisor of the group and tried to engage him in conversation. It seemed that the Koreans were ravenous. They dove into their meals and showed no interest whatsoever in talking to us or even to one another.
I was rapidly beginning to wonder what I had gotten into. It was not until several days later that the supervisor asked me with some annoyance if my grandmother had not taught me not to talk while I was eating? He was very surprised when I explained that, on the contrary, we viewed eating as a social time. Koreans, he said, did not.
Shocked, I replied I was interested in their opinions. He said Korean teachers did not teach this way. He also suggested I ask in the order of the list I had been given-senior men on down to junior men and only then, senior women to junior women. I had wondered at the airport why the list was not in alphabetical order. Now I understood. I am not sure what the Korean teachers learned that first day, but I had learned more than I expect any of them did. I realized that KTEP was just as much about teaching the Canadian staff as it was providing the Koreans with learning opportunities. Dr. Aoki was a very wise man.
Excerpted from the Alberta Kangwon KTEP Newsletter