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Korean teachers visit UTPA
Posted: 02/11/2013
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Gahyun Sung and Hana Na, both English teachers in South Korea, got a peek into how American educators teach their children and how faculty at The University of Texas-Pan American are training the next generation of teachers.

Dr. Maria Elena Reyes, professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, (pictured center) poses with South Korean teachers of English Gahyun Sung (pictured left) and Hana Na. Sung and Na visited UTPA and Vela High School in Edinburg to learn more about the American education system and develop more techniques in teaching English to their students.

Sung and Na visited UT Pan American and Vela High School in Edinburg last week to learn more about the education system in the United States. The two high school-level English teachers came to the U.S. through the Fulbright American Studies Program, the Texas International Education Consortium and UTPA.

The teachers said they were impressed with what they observed.

"I'm really impressed by how welcoming people are here," said Sung. "They're really generous and ... when we ask questions they answer us very honestly."

On Thursday, Feb. 7, Na and Sung gave a presentation to UTPA students and faculty describing the educational system in South Korea.

In Korea, students are required to attend school from the age of 7 to the age of 15. Students wishing to continue their education have to pay for it, similar to college in the United States. Of the students who continue their studies, 97 percent graduate from high school and 80 percent graduate from college, Na said.

Unlike secondary schools in the U.S., students stay in the same room throughout the school day and their teachers travel from classroom to classroom to give their lessons, Na said.

"I envy how each teacher has her own room," she said after her presentation.

Both teachers said they also appreciated how the program allowed them to experience American culture so they can have a better understanding when they teach English to their students back home. The program also allowed them to share their culture and experiences with others.

Dr. Maria Elena Reyes, a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in UTPA's College of Education, helped coordinate the South Korean educators' trip and visits to the high school and university.

Reyes said she believes it is important for the University to participate in such programs and expose students to different cultures and educational systems.

"I believe that globalization is an increasing focus in our world," Reyes said. "I think it's an important consideration for all of us as educators to keep in mind, since we all are preparing our students to be successful globally. I think it's very important for my students to be familiar with another country's educational system, especially an Asian educational system, because it is so different from ours and there are many things that educators in the U.S. admire about the Asian systems of education and there are also many things that Asian educators admire about our system."

Learn more about the College of Education at its website.