Rural boarding school becomes new educational model

Posted on : 2011-05-05 13:41 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Observers say the school has given new opportunities to students in rural areas

By Oh Yoon-joo, Staff Writer

Lee Chang-hui, a 14-year-old seventh grader at Songnisan Middle School in Boeun, North Chungcheong, lives at his school.
Chang-hui stays there from the time he boards the school bus every Monday morning at 8 a.m. until he leaves at 5:40 p.m. on Friday. On March 2, his school became the first boarding middle school to open its doors in South Korea. Literally everything he does during the week, from studying to sleeping, eating, and play, he does at the school.
After moving from Daejeon to Annae Township in North Chungcheong’s Okcheon County in the third grade, Chang-hui lived with his father and grandmother, who is in her 60s. He was happy not attending afterschool academies, but agricultural life was foreign to him. When his father came home from work, he was dumbstruck. For loner Chang-hui, the Internet was a sole means of communication. He spent seven to eight hours a day playing games.
And then he entered Songnisan Middle School. The choice was his father and grandmother’s, as they were unable to look after him. Upon entering, he pled with the school to send him home, but now he finds it more comfortable than his home.
Principal Kim Yeong-mi said, “Students from farming areas like Chang-hui do not have any academies or cultural and educational spaces around them, so they are exposed to the Internet and television far more frequently than city children, and they are becoming more and more uniform.”
“At the heart of the boarding middle school is an attempt to offer educational diversity and opportunities to children in agricultural communities,” Kim added.
The school is a collaborative effort by the Chungcheongbukdo Office of Education, residents of farming communities, and student parents. Schools such as Wonnam Middle School in Boeun’s Samseung Township, Songni Middle School in Songnisan Township, and Naebuk Middle School in Naebuk Township were faced with the threat of closing down when their student numbers dwindled to the twenty to thirty range. In response, the Office of Education proposed creating a “small but great school,” and residents and student parents agreed.
The Office of Education built the new school at a cost of around 12.6 billion won ($11.7 million), with the newest model of dormitories featuring two bathrooms per room, and set about recruiting students. Applications were received from students in Boeun and Okcheon Counties, along with eight students who had come from outside provinces such as Gyeonggi and Gangwon. Today, there is an enrollment of 95 students, including 46 seventh graders, 26 eighth graders, and 23 ninth graders. Interest is booming, with admission inquiries from around 300 people since the school opened its doors, but the organization of village heads has been playing the role of admissions officers, monitoring the inquiries for forged address changes and the like.
Hwang Dae-yeon, 52, head of No. 1 Naemang Village in Boeun’s Samseung Township, said, “It is satisfying and reassuring just hearing the children’s voices from the school and seeing the lights when coming home after work.”
“The school is the village’s hope,” Hwang boasted.
Having drawn attention with its boarding school model, the school is now taking a step forward with an educational ideal. The Office of Education pays for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as afterschool study expenses, while the Woo Je-gwan Scholarship Association pays for school and athletic uniforms, realizing the vision of free education. Every day, all students engage in four hours of afterschool study following their regular classes, with two sessions each in the daytime and evening. Students travel to the appropriate level in subjects such as English and mathematics. They also take part in at least one type of musical activity, including guitar, samulnori, and orchestra. Every Tuesday and Thursday, eight specialized lecturers, including members of the Cheongju City Philharmonic Orchestra, provide them with lessons.
Ninth grader Yun Gi-ryung, 16, said, “Before, I wanted to study, but there were not any academies, so I just played around on the Internet. I am happy now because I can do everything at school.”
Student mother Park Gun-hui, 46, said, “I always felt sorry, even embarrassed, for my children just for living in a farming community, but these days I want to support the school.”

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