It has been a amazing several days of sightseeing, learning cultural worlds of Korea and also interacting with graduate (and undergraduate) adult education students. Sunday morning I was introduced to a wedding party – women in traditional and colorful Korean gowns and a limousine decked out with roses in the shape of a heart on the hood. In Korea, most weddings happen on Sunday and happen in “wedding chapels”. In the discussion of marriage and family, most Koreans value children and the family is committed to making the most advantaged environment for the child. What is shocking to me is that advancing the child usually means that the child from a very early age in involved in private schools after attending regular K-12 schooling. For some Koreans, they view this commitment as a fear of parents that the children won’t be competitive for college. And here in Korea, college admissions is highly competitive and select, with a strong belief that college establishing your future status in society.
Monday I gave course presentations with a combined graduate and undergraduate class in adult education/lifelong learning at Seoul National University, and on Tuesday night at Soongsil University. The students were different between the two institutions. At Seoul National, they were younger, full-time students with a few Chinese students and all appeared to have excellent English skills. At Soongsil, the students were a mix of ages and many were day-time professionals, with a number of Taiwanese and Chinese students. There was also more variability in their understanding of English. Both had strong interest in discussions of adult higher education in the US and both expressed similar concerns in the Korean setting. In discussions, Seoul National University has a significant focus on lifelong learning efforts for government policy focus on lifelong learning centers (based in either universities or municipalities – including citizenship education, arts & culture education, and adult access to higher education), at Soongsil, students were more varied in professional interests – but a number of them were focused on gerontology and such institutions as University for the Third Age. These students asked a number of interesting and provocative questions regarding my research on adult students who saw themselves more so as students, than as lifelong learners within their commitment to higher education. Some interesting ideas to ponder!