Saturday, 11 July 2009

Starting Korean Language Course at NUS Extension

I approached NUS Extension(NEX) on the possibility of starting a Korean language course (KLC) with them in early Oct. 2003. After all consideration in the meetings and the big preparation, NEX was opened to a Korean Language Course (KLC) and was willing to give it a 6-month trail to gauge the response. The first course was launched in Feb 2004 and the first class response was good as some of my students spread the news that I moved to NEX. Whilst this was a positive first step, there were however many challenges that I had to deal with.

I had been planning to use the textbooks published by Sogang University as I was trained there, knew that the books were good teaching materials and had a confident in using the modified Sogang style at NEX. However, NEX could not allocate any budget for the importation of text books because the "KLC was not a programme". In fact, lecturers had to develop and able to use their own teaching materials for courses.

Should lecturers nonetheless required the use of imported text books, so I had to bear the cost of importing the textbooks first. Because NEX would only reimburse the lecturers for the number of books sold. The lecturers were left the bear the costs of any unsold books. So, I wrote new textbooks for level 1 and 2 but I imported Sogang textbooks from level 3 onwards. I used KICE (Korean Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation line for curriculum and tried my best to make the tailored made materials based on my teaching experience in Singapore. What ever situation was given, I starched my ability to make things happen while I was working.

The administration and logistics of arranging for importing text books were also left to me. For the first 18 month of my tenure with NEX, I had to personally arrange for the importation of the text books and had to make out-of-pocket payments amounting up to S$3,000 or more each time before being reimbursed by NEX at a much later date.

I believe that the very positive response to the first KLC at NEX in February 2004 was due the fact that I was the first to apply the CLT(Communicative Language Teaching) & Communicative teaching method in Singapore. I also had to tailored the KLC to fit local consumption as the original lesson plans did not completely meet the local audiences’ needs.
Mid 2004, I received a call from NEX management and was offered a new contract. And the KLC was upgraded to Korean Language program(KLP) in 2005 after I made the successful outcome for KLC. Budgets were discussed and professional advice sought. That was such a great relief because I could not continue to bear using my own money to import the textbooks when it touched more than $5,000 dollars. On top of that, doing exchange, immersion, having proficiency test center, arranging donation of books, recruiting teachers (new jobs to teachers) and other plans became easier to be planned.

My new plan (taking trainers) was submitted to the management and my ex student (Ms. Ong Wann) who learnt from chapter 1, was hired first in Sept. 2004. Ms. Ong Wann graduated from NTU and did a diploma in Korean language at the Sogang university in early 2001 and she wanted to teach Korean language although she was a Singaporean.  So, I took her heart to support her from Sept. 2004 at NEX. While she was under my training, she helped me some translation work as well and I helped her to get the scholarship at the Korean Foundation then she was doing Master degree in Korean language at Kyung Hee University in Seoul.  When she came back to Singapore after her study, I arranged a job for her to teach at Singapore Polytechnic.  Number of students or management people against the idea of taking her (non native Korean teacher) as a Korean teacher but I put my pure heart to someone who wants to be.
We always wished to find the teachers who have integrity, having professional team work mind, supportive and respecting others in any good or bad situations as a colleague,
I met great teachers while I was working together but not alway.  I and other senior teachers felt great deal of regret to train the teacher who merely use this teaching job for own benefits only without any moral or integrity.

However, I had to rush to achieve the plans before 2008. While I was working in NUS Extension, I felt very difficult to work to achieve the goals because I was also preparing for moving to Australia but as I could see the possibility of opening Korean even in the campus, I could not close my eyes to ignore so I decided to try to do it first. There are many significant meanings behind opening Korean language in Singapore.

Teaching Korean language in Singapore in the late 90's

When I first set foot in Singapore in the late 90’s, I noticed that the availability of Korean language courses was minimal. Educational institutes were reluctant to offer Korean language classes as it was not popular. No institutions wanted to use universities' textbooks and they used copied materials without proper curriculums or guide line from MOE(Ministry of Education). I was trying to understand as they find it troublesome to import the required books which were and are still costly or there were also questions raised over the teaching staff's ability to use such said books. However, regarding or respecting copyright was not an issue while I was working there and I was disappointed. I could just stay there to just teach, enjoy my popularity and earned money but I could not close my one eye to the wrong doing due to money or my carrier.

I quit my tenure with my previous insitution in mid-2003 without having my next teaching job due to some copyright issues. I still respect and thank the person who gave me the opportunity and promotes Korean language even though I was disappointed with the fact that the issue over copyrights was not talkable with same level of understanding in the developed country.

After my stint at the institution, I decided to give teaching a miss. But, a suggestion from former students that I teach the Korean language at university level instead, made me rethink my decision to give up teaching as a profession. I decided to explore the option of teaching the Korean language at university level. I believe that unlike a language institute, students would have access to better support, resources and exposure opportunities (such as via exchange programs) at the university level.