Students take part in an English class at the International Graduate School of English (IGSE) in Gangdong-gu, southern Seoul, which specializes in fostering English language experts. / Korea Times
By Kang Shin-who
The International Graduate School of English (IGSE), specializing in fostering English language experts, puts its priority on nurturing English teachers and experts who can communicate fluently in the language.
IGSE President Park Nahm-sheik, pledged that his school will produce a small number of highly qualified English teachers, making them role models for their compatriots here.
It's true that many Korean English teachers have room to improve their English skills. To date, it has been possible for those who cannot speak or write in English well to be hired as English teachers. The curricula of universities producing English teachers, as well as the government's policy of allowing English teachers with relatively weak English skills to teach students at schools, has brought about this situation.
``Our school will pick only a small number of students seeking to master English and help them cultivate practical English skills,'' Park said in an interview with The Korea Times. ```Tiny but Shiny' is our school's motto,'' he said.
Located in Gangdong-gu, southern Seoul, IGSE has enrolled 50 new students every year in its two masters degree programs ― English Language Teaching (ELT) and ELT Materials Development.
Established by Yoon Kyun, the founder of the Yoon's English Academy, in 2002, IGSE provides full tuition to all of its students for the entire two-year course. This is because Yoon who has been dedicated to developing English education programs wanted to return his earnings through the English education business to society by producing quality English experts.
``Our students must go get through hard training for graduation. All classes will be conducted only in English from this fall semester and they have to complete 63 credits. So far only 80 percent of our students graduate,'' said Park who became head of the graduate school in August 2006, as its second president.
The ELT department, designed to produce English teaching professionals, provides students with training in the theoretical aspects of English teaching and linguistics, as well as practical English skills. The ELT materials development department offers programs to cultivate professional English material developers who can make appropriate material to aid teaching professionals.
However, IGSE is not open only to those in the English education field. Anyone who hopes to be a master of English such as businessmen, engineers and even nurses can apply to the school, the president said.
No More Native English Speakers
The president stressed that a teaching license doesn't mean competence as an English teacher. ``Schools should open their doors more to those who can speak English well. Still many teachers are opposing to give opportunities to English teachers without teaching certificates to teach students at public schools,'' Park said. At the same time, he was very pessimistic about the increasing number of foreign English teachers from the U.S., Canada and the U.K.
``Some English speakers don't have much affection toward our children because they came here to earn money and they often cause problems,'' Park said. ``If we need native English speakers, it would be better inviting young ethnic Koreans who have hometowns here. Also, we have to invite qualified English teachers from India, Malaysia and the Philippines as English is not a language only for Americans and British people.''
``Above all, we should produce qualified teachers who can replace native English speakers. I can assure you our school will produce such teachers,'' he added.
In line with the president's devotion to upgrade the quality of Korean English teachers, IGSE has also been training elementary and secondary school English teachers at its consolidated International Teacher Training Institute. The institute conducts programs, both offline and online, for some 2,000 public school teachers, enrolled from the Ministry of Education, annually. IGSE also has the largest library with some 18,000 books and journals related to English education in the nation. The library is open to not only its students and faculty but also to other citizens.
No English Test Scores for Admission
A passion for learning English is the most important admission criteria for IGSE and the school doesn't count scores from test certificates such as TOEIC and TOEFL when assessing students for enrollment. Instead it places 10 percent of its evaluation on applicants' GPA, 30 percent on a self-introduction and 60 percent on study plans in the first round of the admission process. Those who pass the first round will have Korean and English interviews. Applicants must have a bachelors degree in any major field of study.
``Test scores cannot tell the exact capability of students. We will value applicants' professional commitment and passion toward English learning,'' Park said.
Lastly, Park disclosed his plans to diversify the nationalities of his students and expand joint programs with overseas universities. ``Our school is currently allowed to accept foreign students up to 10 percent of the total admission quota, but I will increase this to 30 percent. In addition, we will conduct at least 30 percent of our school programs with partnership schools overseas through multimedia,'' he said. Graduating in English language and literature from Chonnam National University in South Jeolla, Park received a masters degree from the University of Hawaii and a Ph.D from Georgetown University. He taught English at Seoul National University for more than 35 years and is known for leading the development of the TEPS test at the university.