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Teaching Korean students to dream big

 Korean students from top U.S. and Canadian universities have helped less fortunate young people here reach for their dreams this summer.

The newly established Teach for Korea has offered free tutoring and mentoring to economically disadvantaged students from four Seoul schools.

Graduates and students from world-renowned U.S. institutions including Cornell, Columbia and Pennsylvania Universities are helping with the non-profit project. 
A mentor participates in Teach for Korea in Seoul. (Teach for Korea)
A mentor participates in Teach for Korea in Seoul. (Teach for Korea)

The pilot scheme was established to counter the growing disparity in education opportunities between rich and poor students in South Korea.

According to Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, the average Korean household invests 420,000 won a month in private education for each elementary school student and 568,000 won for a child in middle school.

Parents invest heavily in private education in the hopes that their children will perform well in college entrance exams, leaving lower-income students at a disadvantage in competitive school and work environments.

Teach for Korea’s 25 Korean volunteers helped 41 mentees from July 19 until Aug. 8 for the trial-run program. The project will be expanded to more schools in Seoul with funding from the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education if it proves to have been successful.

“Expanding to other schools in Seoul is our short term goal. Hopefully Teach for Korea will one day be able to assist lower-class students all over Korea,” said Jeon Woon-ki, one of the group’s founding members.

However, because the program focuses more on mentoring than tutoring, assessing the program’s success may prove challenging.

“While we do hope our mentees will improve their test scores within the next four weeks, Teach for Korea will mainly be evaluated by changes in the students’ attitudes, which may be difficult to measure,” explained Jeon, who majored in computer science, mathematics and statistics at the University of Pennsylvania.

“The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education will talk with the kids, homeroom teachers, principals, and even us, the volunteers, when deciding whether our mentees have shown mental and emotional maturity.”

Many volunteers chose to help with the project because they hope to help their mentees gain the confidence to dream big.

“Many children born into poverty lack dreams. If our mentees can find something they are passionate about, they will work harder and in the process grow as a person,” said one volunteer.

“And this is what all of us want ― to help economically disadvantaged kids dream big and to give them the desire to rise above the limitations of their social class.”

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By Xing Lin (
Korea Herald Youtube