Teaching Pupils from Diverse Backgrounds
Bogwang Elementary School has 34 students of foreign nationality or mixed ethnic background. Fourteen of them in first or second grades take extra lessons to help them read and write in Korean.
Most of them are children of expatriate workers or Koreans who are married to non-Koreans. Their parents are from Japan, China, Mongolia, the Phillippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Russia.
Over 2,200 children of Koreans with foreign spouses are enrolled at local elementary, middle and high schools in Seoul, according to the Education Ministry. Nearly half of their non-Korean parents are from Japan. Almost a quarter (501) are from China, followed by 230 from the Philippines, 73 from Vietnam, and 71 from Mongolia.
Nationwide, the number of children with a non-Korean parent more than doubled over the past two years to nearly 19,000.
Beatrice and Julia from Brazil are attending Bogwang Elementary School to learn Korean culture and the language.
"I think it's a great opportunity for my children because Korea is so far from Brazil and there may not be many chances to live in this part of the world again," said Nicolau Carol, the mother of Beatrice and Julia. Carol's family will be staying in Seoul for about a year because her husband is doing a medial fellowship here.
A Turkish girl named Sehra Zunbul made headlines last year for being elected class vice leader in the fourth grade. Sehra's father Faruk Zunbul is an Islamic missionary at the mosque in Itaewon.
With students from United States, Japan, Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Russia, Indonesia and Iraq, Bogwang has frequent events and courses to help students learn about different cultures.
Students learn to cook dishes from around the world, and they visit places like the mosque and foreign embassies in Seoul to broaden their horizons.
By Kim So-hyun
My question is, why don't all Korean students go through some kind of cultural diversity training? When I was in elementary school, I spent large chunks of time researching and learning about life in other countries. I'm not going to say that it was the most comprehensive and detailed studies, but I had at least a vague idea that other people existed in other places, and that their lives were pretty interesting. Also, since we learned about many different places, it helped de-exoticize it. Admittedly, coming from the US it's easier to have had multicultural experiences. All but the smallest towns will have a mosque or temple or community center or something that goes beyond white-bread middle class Normal Rockwell ideas about what it is to be American, and even my hometown (the whitest city in America) there were still opportunities to meet and be friends with people from other neighborhoods, other backgrounds, other countries, other classes, etc.
But that's why Korea needs these classes for their children even more. Religious, ethnic, and linguistic diversity are not going away, and considering the amount of bitching that goes on and the myriad large and small complaints that most foreigners here have, I think it's fair to say that Korea needs a little more understanding of and appreciation of diversity. And now, thanks to demographic shifts, they can start doing it in the comfort of their own back yards. This is not something that should be just for international students, or students with parents from overseas. Stop sticking these kids in "special" classes to learn about Korea, and start teaching regular Korean kids about lives outside the kimchi bubble. Give them a sense that people who aren't 100% 우리민족 are real people, too, and not freaks of nature.
In the meantime, I wish adult Koreans would step outside the sanitized kimchi bubble to find sources about foreigners from something other than the vapid and idiotic 미녀들의 수다. God, even just the title of that show is condescending.