13 February 2024 at 10:30 am

Reflections from English Teachers in South Korea

As part of New Zealand’s commitment to the Korea-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (KNZFTA) and our Korean government partners, New Zealand sends qualified teachers to South Korea each year.  Two of the teachers have shared their reflections on their two-week experience.  

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In January 2024, six New Zealand teachers were selected to spend part of their summer season teaching English in South Korea as part of the New Zealand Korea FTA Partnership English Language Training Programme 

This programme is supported by Education New Zealand Manapou ki te Ao (ENZ) who assists with the teacher recruitment process. This was one of the key KNZFTA programmes recently discussed during the South Korea Government delegation visit to New Zealand late last year.  

The group of six New Zealand teachers selected to teach English in South Korea in January. From left, Jane Bassett, Food Technology Teacher from Havelock North Intermediate School, Sharon Powell, English Teacher from Long Bay College in Auckland, Kara Shortland, Acting Team Leader (Bilingual) from Whangārei Intermediate School Te Tai Tokerau. Glenn Cheyne, Head of Learning Area Social Sciences from Nayland College in Nelson, Gordon Sim, Social Science teacher from Hillcrest High School in Hamilton, and Dan Greer, Social Studies/Drama teacher from Logan Park High School in Dunedin.

Kay Lee, ENZ Senior Market Development Manager – Korea, said that it was an absolute pleasure to see New Zealand teachers continue to travel to South Korea to teach English during their summer break.  

“There are so many positive outcomes from the running of this cross-cultural programme for both the Korean students and the New Zealand teachers participating.  

"On one hand, the students get the opportunity to hone their English language skills while experiencing the New Zealand teaching style, learning more about New Zealand, including its culture and education system. Meanwhile, while teaching English and serving as ambassadors of a New Zealand education, the teachers can immerse themselves in Korean life for a few weeks, seeing new sights, trying new food and making new friends.  

Gordon, Jane, and Dan, sampling Korean cuisine at the end of the teaching day.

"Our Korean government partner for educational programmes, EPIS, has acknowledged ENZ for its significant contribution to the programme’s success through effective teacher recruitment. These positive outcomes are testament to the strength of our NZ-Korea Government-to-Government partnership,” added Kay.  

Upon their return to New Zealand, two of the teachers who are trained in teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), shared their experiences with ENZ. Read on to hear about the reflections from their two weeks abroad.... 

Jane Bassett (지안 (Jian) from Havelock North Intermediate School with her students.

Jane Bassett is a Food Technology teacher at Havelock North Intermediate School and said that the experience of exchanging cultures whilst teaching in an overseas classroom environment was an absolute privilege.  

“Our students were aged 14 – 17 years old and came from all over South Korea with family backgrounds in the Agricultural and Fisheries industries. Each student had been awarded a scholarship from the Korean government to attend the two-week intensive English programme organised by the Hyundai Research Institute. 

"The Institute went above and beyond in their efforts to ensure an incredible experience for both the students and our group of teachers.   

The teaching programme included a wide range of modules and as well as English grammar, we covered lessons on New Zealand culture, history, tourism, agriculture, sports, famous New Zealanders, and school life.  My class was also exposed to the New Zealand Technology curriculum and was tasked with developing a new snack product. As part of the project, I introduced them to several New Zealand snacks and Kiwi classics such as WeetBix, Marmite and Watties Baked Beans, to varying degrees of enjoyment!”  

Students were encouraged to speak in English throughout the day via fun-games, readings, conversations and plays so that the teachers could fine-tune their English to help them become more fluent with more natural English phrasing.  

"We also explained aspects of Māori culture and the significance of pepeha (way of introduction). The students, who were from agricultural and fisheries backgrounds, were quickly able to identify their  own awa (river) and maunga (mountain), showing their own personal connection to their land.   

Jane said that a personal highlight was being able to spend her birthday in Seoul learning about Korean cuisine through a cooking class on kimchi making and tea ceremony in a traditional house. She admitted that this was an appropriate birthday experience for a New Zealand Food Technology teacher! 

She summed up the experience by saying that the group of teachers gained a greater understanding of cultural diversity and appreciation of the challenges learning English poses for new learners, learnings which they will take home with them.  

“We really hope that our students will remember their experience as fondly as we will and that they will look to study and visit New Zealand in the future.” 

Drama and Social Studies teacher, Dan Greer, of Logan Park High School with three of his students.

Dan Greer, is a drama and social studies secondary school teacher from Logan Park School in Dunedin. He joined Jane as one of the six teachers selected to travel to South Korea, his second experience as an English language teacher in South Korea, having taught in Ulsan 12 years ago.   

“I had such an amazing time participating in the Hyundai Research Institute’s programme. It was great to have other quality teachers on this experience with me and we were able to work together, mixing up the style of teaching and activities. I had the more beginner level class, and as a drama teacher we added games to my traditional English teaching. The students really enjoyed it, and it gave them more confidence to give things a go. 

Dan reflected on the fact that there was one practice of teaching English in Korea that he had often thought was a little unfair, that being the naming of Korean students with English names.  

“As an English teacher in Korea, you are often asked to name Korean students with English names. Sometimes this is because they want them, sometimes it is because they ’have’ to, and for many it is because westerners find Korean names hard to pronounce. I have named nine children in my life, one being my daughter and the other eight have been my Korean students. 

Dan used this practice as a topic of discussion in class one day and shared his opinion that it had not always felt right to him as he felt that if Korean students were taking the time to learn the English language, that teachers should make an effort in return.  

He then asked his students whether English teachers should have Korean names. This prompted them to ask many questions about Dan including who he is when he is not “Dan the teacher”, his whakapapa, and the meaning of his name in English.  

Dan said “You can imagine my surprise when my students were all waiting for me when I arrived the next day. One wonderful student then stood up and using perfect English gifted me a Korean name. I was no longer just “Dan the Teacher,” but also now 도혁 (Dohyuk), which meant I was ‘leading them to a bright path’.   

“This was such a humbling experience that I will cherish forever. For me, this is what makes teaching and life so special,” added 도혁  (Dan). 

If the Korean organisers decide to run the NZ-Korea FTA Partnership English Language Training Programme in the future, ENZ will continue to share the applications with NZ school teachers through the Asia NZ Foundation and Schools International Education Business Association (SIEBA).  

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