Lee Cheerleading English-Friendly Korea

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Wed Jan 30 15:01:30 UTC 2008

    01-29-2008 16:25

Lee Cheerleading English-Friendly Korea

By Kang Hyun-kyung
Staff Reporter

Chairwoman Lee Kyung-sook of the presidential transition team has
spread the gospel of an English-friendly Korea nationwide since she
accepted the job last month. Recently, Lee is learning that she needs
to make the public's voice regarding English education policy heard,
as they are core stakeholders in the policy reform. ``It will be hard
for the transition team to garner support for the English education
reform plan from the public as long as the plan fails to win them
over,'' Lee said on Tuesday. She said the team should convince the
public to understand the ultimate goal and expected benefits they
would receive once the plan is set in place.

Her remarks came after severe backlash from school teachers and some
parents caused the team to de facto withdraw its plan to conduct
non-language courses in English in high schools. Lee Dong-kwan,
spokesman of the team, clarified Monday the new government will not
seek the English immersion program in non-English courses. Despite the
trial and error, the chairwoman has consistently taken the role of
being a cheerleader of the new government's English educational
reform. Those who are familiar with her proactive leadership style
said Lee was a strong advocate of foreign language education, as she
has transformed her alma mater, Sookmyung Women's University as
president, mainly through a globalization strategy.

Lee has served as president of the university since 1994. She
introduced the Teaching of English for Speakers of Other Languages
(TESOL) program to the university in 1997, a first for domestic
universities. Lee raised nearly 100 billion won in 2006, fulfilling
one of her presidency pledges. Under her leadership, 21 buildings were
added to the campus, which is now three times larger than before,
according to sources at the university.

Her humble goal is to upgrade English education to a level where
``high school graduates can communicate with foreigners in English
without difficulties.'' Lee's humble but clear goal seemed to help her
endure mounting skepticism toward the proposed plan to reform English
education.  Since the transition team unveiled its education reform
strategy last week, there has been heated debate on the proactive
English policy.

But the effectiveness of leading English-only classes in schools was
called into question due to shortages of proficient English-speaking
teachers. The chairwoman, however, has not shown any signs of stepping
back.  ``Many people are sharing the view that they would save a lot
of money once public education offers proper English language
programs,'' she said.  ``The new government would place a top policy
priority on improving students' English skills in the coming five
years of Lee's presidency.'' She made it clear that the plan was not
contrived in weeks, adding that the program came out of decades of
research and experience.

hkang at koreatimes.co.kr
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