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   Local gov’ts driving to equal cities in education
   3751    2009-01-12
Source : Joongang Daily

January 10, 2009

As more and more farmers and fishermen leave their hometowns for big cities to provide better education for their children, provincial and county governments across the country are trying to stem the tide. Many offer free after-school classes that can match educational options available in metropolitan centers.

South Jeolla Province has been running four free summer English camps for elementary and middle school students since 2007. Last year, it accommodated 1,272 students with a budget of 900 million won ($696,324). The province has been able to offer the 10-day camp free of charge by trimming the cost of recruiting native-English teachers and tapping into volunteers from foreign universities with which the province has friendship agreements.

The province plans to add one more camp so it can handle 1,500 students this summer, according to the official.

In addition to the English camps, the province already spent 160 million won to send 22 middle school students, the outstanding participants in last summer’s camp, to the University of Missouri on Dec. 20, 2008. They are now taking four-week English language courses in the United States.

“If we don’t improve the quality of education in rural villages, we will never be able to stop the outflow of the farming population, as the education gap between cities and rural villages is widening,” said South Jeolla Governor Park Joon-yung.

County offices are also working hard to upgrade their public education environment. South Jeolla’s Gangjin County Office spent 120 million won for free study-abroad programs for 30 local middle schoolers.

The county also offers free supplementary English, Korean and math classes for 200 elementary and middle school students for four weeks. They are taught by 30 invited college students from Gwangju National University of Education. The county covered all expenses for this program, as well. Hwang Hye-ryeon, 46, who has a son in sixth grade and who owns a hoe, or sashimi, restaurant in the county, said she was delighted to hear the county’s announcement.

“I’ve been concerned about my son’s education as there are no proper private institutes in this area. But now I’m a little relieved,” Hwang said.

Some counties that implemented similar improvements to their education systems years ago are seeing good results.

Docho High School is located on an island in Shinan County, South Jeolla. The nearest accessible point on the mainland, Mokpo Harbor, is a two-hour ferry ride away. The school, which had suffered from severe student shortage, is seeing its freshman enrollment increase, from 21 in 2007 to 47 in 2009.

Principal Kwak Jong-weol said the school had nearly been deserted by residents, but after improving its education system with the county’s support, it now even attracts students from off the island.

“Of the 47 applicants, 10 are from the mainland - Incheon, Gwangju and Yeosu,” Kwak said.

By Lee Hai-suk JoongAng Ilbo

Link : http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2899663
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