A group of UNC Charlotte College of Education graduate students and faculty are back with stories from overseas after participating in in a study abroad program in China and Korea this summer.
Under the guidance of faculty members Chuang Wang, Do-Hong Kim and Lan Kolano, 27 students traveled across parts of the Asian countries as part of a comparative education course. The goals of the course included comparing American, Chinese and Korean students’ learning styles, educational reform efforts in the United States with those in China and Korea, and to understand the general directions the United States, China, and Korea want for their schools in the 21st century.
“This study abroad experience was designed to expose UNC Charlotte College of Education graduate candidates to diverse educational policies and practices in Asia,” said Kolano. “The course was purposefully designed to immerse participants in the language and culture of China and Korea through school site visits at all levels.”
In order to effectively understand the Asian educational system, students completed course work, visited Chinese and Korean K-12 schools, observed classrooms, interacted with Chinese and Korean school teachers and administrators and linked their field notes with course work. The group also attended lectures by Chinese and Korean educators.
Graduate student Taylor Allen said he decided to take advantage of this trip because he wanted a better understanding of international education systems.
“Education in the United States is changing and it doesn't look good when we compare our test scores to China, Korea and many other countries around the world. So this trip was a good opportunity for me to go back to China, I taught there in 2013, and look at education from a new perspective with highly qualified peers and instructors.”
Though the trip was a learning experience, it was not all about work. The staff and students got to participate in a variety of cultural and historical activities. Students took calligraphy lessons and visited the famous Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses, and the Qinshihuang Mausoleum.
Professors Rebecca Shore and Florence Martin also traveled with the group. Shore presented a book talk in Chengdu and was interviewed by a TV station there. Martin gave a lecture on best practices in online teaching in Xi’an.
Allen said his most memorable experience of the trip was going to the Joint Security Area. This UN Command camp is located in a demilitarized zone where North and South Korean diplomats can meet.
“I say that it was memorable, because it is one of the few places on the planet where you can tour an active war-zone and be back within one of the worlds biggest and most developed cities within an hour or two. But I was curious to see what I could of North Korea because it seemed to offer an honest glimpse at what life is like without education and without freedom.”
Kolano, the faculty leader, said the course shifted perspectives.
“This experience exceeded all expectations and provided both faculty and students with rich, transformative experiences that will shape their own views of teaching and learning in the U.S.”
The trip was so successful that the faculty members will be editing a book in the fall with contributing chapters from some of the participating graduate students.
by: SheVan Alston