Subject: Teacher Training
Education institution: University College UCC
“Every time I visit a Danish school, it strikes me how friendly and warm and happy the children are,” says Jee Eung Chae (21), who is doing two semesters at UCC’s teacher training programme in Copenhagen. Jee will bring typical Danish educational methods such as activities, circle talks and decorated educational environments back to Korea.
Jee Eung Chae is enrolled as a student teacher at The Gyeongin National University of Education in Korea. She has chosen to take two semesters in Denmark studying “The Nordic Model–the Fundamental Values of the Danish and Nordic School Traditions.” From August 2015 to May 2016 Jee will follow UCC’s teacher training programme in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, where the educational traditions are quite different from their Korean counterparts.
I like the way the teachers respect the pupils
“The first thing that really shocked me when I came to Denmark was the relationship between teachers and pupils. It is very warm and friendly over here, and I really like the way the teachers respect the pupils. They do not limit them. Rather, they are very supportive of the pupils and open towards their dreams and ideas. They just tell them ‘of course you can do it’. We visited some schools here and met pupils at various levels from 0th to 10th grade. Every time I visit a Danish school, it strikes me how friendly and warm and happy the pupils are. So when I meet Danish pupils, I say ‘you are lucky to be going to school here’,” says Jee (21).
“Pupils in Korea do not have much spare time. There are very high expectations from society and often from the parents too. It makes the pupils very competitive, and there are always math contests and test things like that. This type of educational system tends to make the pupils rather stressed. In Korea, we have a high rate of suicide among pupils and students, because they are simply so tired of this routine of just studying and studying, then a bit of sleep, then waking up and studying again. Now that sound very harsh. And it is not like that for everyone,” she points out.
Danish pupils are more motivated
“It just feels like the pupils in Denmark are more motivated. As they get older, they all seem to study because they have dreams. They do not study, because they lack money or because somebody expects them to. And they get support from the teacher who helps them. So they are happier.”
Even if this Korean student teacher agrees that teachers must be friendly, she also feels that it can become too much of a good thing.
“The pupils can talk to the teacher and find a solution if there is a problem, and I think it keeps them more motivated and comfortable. But …I think there is a risk of losing authority, if you are too friendly. I think Danish pupils should respect teachers a bit more. Here in Denmark, I saw pupils being on Facebook in class, and the teacher just said, “please stop that.” Pupils on Facebook in class could also happen in Korea, but if the teacher found out… oh wow!”
Small games work well in class
Jee Eung Chae will use some of the methods she has been taught in Denmark:
“Group work is a big trend here. You learn to discuss and listen to each other’s ideas and thoughts. Another thing we have been studying is the use of different activities such as small games or doing a round where everybody gets to introduce themselves and tell something about themselves. It can be just a small thing where the pupils interact, but it works really well. Activities reduce fear and bullying and they serve as a good icebreaker for the pupils. They get to know and respect each other. Activities is a method I definitely want to use back in Korea.
Jee Eung Chae is fascinated by the way Danish teachers decorate schools and classrooms:
“I really like studying how you work with the physical environment of the class. How different visual factors in the rooms affect the pupils, their sense of comfort and their learning. One example is the use of different materials and decorations in the classroom. In Korea, the classroom is typically just a square room with hard surfaces. With chairs and desks. It is interesting to see how the physical settings actually make a big difference.”
The Danish way of teaching language
What else has Jee Eung Chae noticed about the Danish education of teachers?
“I noticed how well you all speak English! I think it is because there is a difference in the way you teach language here and in Korea. We are very focused on reading, understanding and listening. But we do not really focus on speaking and writing–so this means we know a lot of words and grammar and we can read really well in English, but we are not very good at speaking it. I think here in Denmark, the pupils hear the language spoken in a more natural way. They seem to be offered many different kinds of input from music and games, but also visual stuff like movies–so you observe the language naturally and therefore speak it naturally. But in Korea we now are beginning to adopt the Danish approach to language teaching,” says the Korean student teacher.