Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Visit to Seoul National University and Institute of Lifelong Education

Tuesday/Wednesday,October 20-21st. It is a beautiful fall day in Seoul. Different language and customs are evident in subtle and striking ways. Remove your shoes at the entrance to your room. Pride in technology and the belief stated on the TV – “Korea remakes itself every six months”. Korea will be a fascinating engagement.

For two weeks, I will be exploring this context in relation to adult education, lifelong learning, and specifically the understandings of adult learners in higher education in Korea. Today, Wednesday, I experienced an overview tour of Seoul National University, built in a valley among several hills and with significant construction of new buildings. (Seoul Nat’l University is the largest university in the country and has a “global research extensive” designation). Meeting with key academic leaders in the Department of Education, Yong-Je Woo, and specifically in Lifelong Education, Soonghee Han and Dae Joong Kang, I learn of this lifelong learning orientation and their new focus on globalization. Although their courses are similar to our own, several are unique – “Educational planning for the civil society education” and “Theory of lifelong learning cities” as two prominent examples. Currently the department is working to establish linkages with key associations and research institutes in Vietnam and China, as well as the Scandavanian countries. They have great pride in their Educarional Research Institute and their publication of the Asia Pacific Education Review journal.

This evening, I had a fascinating visit with the National Institute of Lifelong Education and presented a seminar on Perspectives of Adult Undergraduates in US Higher Education. The Institute was formed in 1998 to promote a lifelong learning society for both the development of the individual and the society. Among its activities is The Center for Academic Credit Bank System for learning experiences both in formal and informal systems. They can offer a Bachelors Degree through the Ministry through this credit bank system, totally over 35,000 degree in 2008. They also provide leadership for the Center for Bachelor’s Degree Examination for Self-Education, with varied exams provided to test competence. Last year. Approximately 700 were awarded. Beyond these two major roles, they have a significant number of lifelong education projects, including support for adult literacy education and financial support for the marginalized. They also offer lifelong learning workshops to professionals and currently working on a new project targeted to adult access to higher education.

I attempted to upload two pictures (without success) to acquaint with the fall colors at a coffee bar near the Hoam Faculty Faculty (the building which provides both housing for conference and visiting faculty, as well as a conference facility. Currently, they are hosting an international aging conference. Korea is facing a significant decline in their birthrate, which is projected to impact both the significant number of their higher education institutions (they are talking about mergings among a number of institutions), and also the future quality of life of the elderly through lifelong education.

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