multicultural ed by malj

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Namgi, Park1*, Eunhee Jung (O‟Neill)2*
Gwangju National University of Education 1
University of Virginia, Center for International Virtual Schooling2
*: Presenter


As the incidence of international marriages in Korea has reached almost 10% of all marriages, the
importance of multicultural and intercultural understanding has increased rapidly in the Korean society.
In order to assist with the adaptation to cultural diversity in Korea, this paper aims to seek the best
education policies to promote multicultural and intercultural education. Since China—which neighbors
Korea and bears similarities in a multicultural sense to the United States—consists of 55 racial minorities,
the paper examines the policy and practice of multicultural education in China to understand how it might
correspond with the situation in Korea. The comparison of the two countries clarifies the characteristics
of Korea‟s situation regarding multicultural education. Next, by analyzing Korea‟s multicultural
education policy, the paper also elucidates its capabilities and limitations. In addition, a discussion of an
online international exchange program implemented for public schools in Korea and the US identifies the
benefits of using the e-learning format to promote intercultural education for members of the Korean
society. Finally, based on an analysis of the current status of Korea‟s multicultural education and the
potential that accompanies the intercultural e-learning program, this paper will propose multicultural and
intercultural education policies suitable for the current Korean society and extant educational conditions.


Relative to multicultural education, the term multicultural has been defined variously depending on the
scholar. Essentially, it describes a society in which diverse cultures of immigrants or their subsequent
generations affect the mainstream culture.

1. Analyses of Multicultural Education in Different Countries

Multicultural Conditions in the United States

The United States exemplifies a multicultural society that was established primarily by Europeans who
came from a variety of countries with multi-ethnic backgrounds. Although the initial immigrants were
comprised of a great number of English Puritans, the United States was reborn historically as a new form
of multi-ethnic country as the number of ethnic groups increased over time. Among these new
communities, some attempted to maintain their traditions. For instance, community members built their
own churches to be shared with others of the same ethnicity. By forming their specific residential areas or
commercial districts, such as China towns, they reestablished the center of their lives and cultures.

In earlier times, people in the mainstream culture of the United States employed the Melting Pot policy
through which the country introduced and integrated new immigrants into that culture. Later, the Salad
and Sandwich policies were used to promote a culturally diverse and affluent American society by
allowing immigrants to retain their traditional cultures while facilitating their reconciliation with the
mainstream culture. The multicultural situation experienced in the US is similar to that of Korea since the
mainstream and various ethnic groups either reside in the same areas or are adjacent to each other.

However, the US did not apply its multicultural policies uniformly to all the ethnic groups in the country.
In particular, Native American Indians were targeted for elimination and segregation, and they were not
considered suitable as community members for the larger society. African Americans were also
segregated, but they were considered a minority who lived separate from the majority. Although not as
isolated as these two ethnic groups, Asians were also differentiated initially but gradually were permitted
to live with those in the mainstream. Currently, Asians are considered as the group most capable of
challenging the mainstream European cultures.

Multicultural Conditions in China

Multicultural conditions in China are very different from those in America. When the multicultural
situation is defined as the sate of living together despite having different cultural backgrounds, China may
not be considered a particularly multicultural country. In fact, China is a multi-ethnic country comprised
of the Han race and 55 other racial minorities, the number of which approaches 100,000, which represents
less than 8.4% of the total population of 1.3 million. These minorities dwell together in areas separate
from those in the mainstream Han society and preserve their own languages and cultures. Further, some
of the minority races are separated by the national boundaries of their mother countries or they have
experienced conflict with the Han race. In view of this, Chinese society does not represent a truly
multicultural situation; rather, it demonstrates the coexistence of minority races. As a result, Chinese
multicultural education is characterized by minority education.

In these situations, China has employed Fei Xiaotong‟s theory of Chinese ethnic “unity of diversity”
(duoyuan yiti) as the fundamental objective for multicultural education (Kim, 2008). The theory regarding
the ethnic unity of diversity emphasizes the unification of the Han race and 55 minority races into a
single, Han-centered race of Chinese citizens. That is, while stressing that China is a multi-ethnic, united
country of different races, the theory explains China‟s intent to retain a single country comprised of
Chinese races without ethnic division. As such, the theory reflects the historic Chinese situation in view
of the simultaneous prosperity of the minority races and the unification of the country.

Not long ago, conflicts with the minority races represented a major issue to be resolved, and the Chinese
government handled these issues in a variety of ways. Recently, however, the government removed the
profile pictures of the minority races from its paper money. Additionally, the majority of the students who
attend national universities are of the Han race while only the gifted among minority students were
previously allowed to enter. Further, most of the areas inhabited by the minority races are now occupied
by people of the Han race. Accordingly, the support and education once provided to minority races in
order to exert political control have disappeared, except in the form of bilingual education in national
schools (Kim, 2008).

2. Korea’s Multicultural Education Situation

Until recently, the Korean society has neither paid attention to multi-ethnic cultures nor seen the need for
multicultural education. Although American soldiers and their family members have lived in Korea for
many years, this alone did not create multicultural issues, since most of these people lived together in
enclaves and returned to their home country after almost no interaction with the local community. Of late,
however, the issue of multicultural education in Korea has become a social issue due to the increased
number of international marriages—and the children they produce—among Koreans and foreign
industrial trainees, illegal immigrants, and North Korean refugees.

The multicultural conditions in Korea are considerably different from those in the US and China. Unlike
those countries, there has been no significant, ethnically homogenized migration of races into Korea.
Recent émigrés do not reside in certain regions to maintain their own traditions or engage in any specific
economic, cultural, or religious activities. While foreign laborers have come to Korea, they generally
leave within a certain period since their permanent immigration is not permitted. However, since many
rural bachelors who are unable to marry Koreans search for partners from Yanbian, China, and locations
throughout Southeast Asia, the number of children produced through international marriages has
increased. Based on this trend, the need for multicultural education has become significant.

              Table 1. The number of K-12 students from families of international marriages
         Elementary School         Middle School             High School               Total
            N         R (%)           N        R (%)            N        R (%)            N           R (%)
 2005     5,332                       583                       206                       6,121
 2006     6,795          27.4         924          58.5         279          35.4         7,998        30.6
 2007     11,444         68.4        1,588         71.9         413          48.0        13,445        68.1
 2008     15,804         38.1        2,205         38.9         760          84.0        18,769        39.6
N: Number of Students, R: Rates of Increase. The number of students whose mothers came from different countries:
16,037 (90.2%). Source: Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (2008a). 2008 Multicultural Family
Student Education Plan, Seoul: MEST (Internal resource).

Since most of the target students for multicultural education are born in Korea and only one of their
parents is from a different country, educating these students as members of Korean society is not difficult.
However, Koreans tend to maintain prejudices against foreign women who marry rural Korean men and
live with their Korean parents-in-law—and toward their children as well. The adaptation of these foreign
women and their children to Korean society also presents an issue. Most of the multicultural families in
these rural areas suffer from poverty, and the children‟s school experience is difficult because of their
parents‟ indifference to education.


1. MEST Multicultural Education Policy as of 2008

As discussed in the previous section, multicultural education in Korea can be characterized most
accurately as multinational-culture education. Due to increased international exchange and thus
international marriages, MEST is committed to instituting a multicultural education policy that is suitable
to Korea‟s multicultural situation. According to MEST (2008), the goals of an education policy focused
on supporting multicultural education are 1) reducing the educational disadvantage imposed on
multicultural family students and helping them adapt to society, 2) promoting cultural sensitivity and
understanding among general students, and 3) assisting students from multicultural families in becoming
globally competent and bilingual human resources.

Table 2 presents the support status of multicultural education in 2007. During that period, the MEST
budget for multicultural family support was quite small—about 1.4 billion Korean Won (KW). While the
Local Offices of Education (LOE) and Local Autonomous Bodies (LAB) also coordinate various
education campaigns for multicultural education, the budgets for such campaigns were insufficient.
                       Table 2. The support status of multicultural education in 2007
  Org.                                                  Support
 MEST         Multicultural education related research and development (300 million KW):
               multicultural education policy study, development of Korean language textbooks and
               programs, and development of teacher training programs
              Local multicultural education center support (1.09 billion KW): establishment of
               multicultural education network, and support for locally specialized multicultural
 LOE          Student support: mentoring, multicultural understanding camps, understanding
               international education, meal plans, special skills and aptitude classes, afterschool
               programs, and school entrance counseling
              Teacher support: professional development; teaching material distribution
              Parent support: parents workshop; Korean language class
 Schools      Korean language class » Total 213 schools, 814 participants (Elementary: 790
               participants in176 schools; Middle: 24 participants in 37 schools)
 LAB          Regional Human Resource Development (RHRD) campaign: support 12 regions and 25
               projects » Korean language classes for international marriage immigrants, identity
               formation for children from international marriage families
 Other        Department of Health and Human Services, Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism:
               international marriage family support
Source: Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (2008a). 2008 Multicultural Family Students Education
Plan, Seoul: MEST (Internal resource).

As shown in the 2007 MEST policy analysis report (2008), the budget and full-time staff support for
multicultural education are insufficient. In practice, school commissioners at education offices handle
tasks relevant to multicultural education as another of his or her many duties. Further, most of the support
provided to multicultural families has been limited, and programs intended to promote a societal
understanding of multicultural families are also deficient. That is, MEST has been unable to work on its
own plan to “foster a social environment of understanding and respect for the culture and history of
multicultural families.”
                                  Table 3. Analysis of Policy and Practice
                       Strength                                              Weakness
   Support and unitization of professional               Full-time staff for multicultural education
     research and development for multicultural             plan; insufficient funds
     understanding and education
   Use of school level studies and outcomes              Lack of legal and institutional system to
     through the model school appointment and               support students from multicultural families
     operation for policy studies and data collection
                     Opportunity                                                Threat
   Significant interest by office of education,          Organizational inefficiency for systematic
     local government, press, and NGOs on                   assignment of roles among relevant
     multicultural education                                departments and central-local governments
   New government‟s policy for a “great nation           Excessively      multicultural family-oriented
     of competent human resources”                          policy and support resulting in programs that
     (Assisting students from multicultural families        are    deficient     in    promoting   cultural
     in becoming globally competent and bilingual           understanding among the public
     human resources)                                     Difficulty in measuring policy outcomes
Source: Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (2008a). 2008 Multicultural Family Students Education
Plan, Seoul: MEST (Internal resource).
To overcome these limitations, in 2008, MEST established objectives for the education policy:
“enforcement of organizational cooperation and student-oriented education.” Based on these objectives,
MEST will “boost connectivity among the organizations that support multicultural education” and
“reinforce the support provided to school-oriented, customizable education.” To establish the support
infrastructure for students from multicultural families, MEST has strengthened the discussion channels
among the related departments and offices of education. It has also formed and now operates regional
“councils for multicultural education support.” In addition, the Multicultural Education Center at Seoul
National University develops teaching and learning materials as well as programs for students from
multicultural families, and it conducts policy studies. The school-oriented, customizable education
support campaign includes programs in Korean language improvement and self-identity establishment for
such students, and a program geared toward improving cultural understanding among general public

MEST employs a multicultural education campaign measurement system to amend its policy and diffuse
the outcomes of the campaign. It also encourages local governments to designate regionally specialized
policy study schools. For example, Incheon province identified 32 schools specializing in multicultural
education and has provided the parents and students from multicultural families with diverse programs
that address Korean language, school adjustment, and Korean culture courses. In this initiative, parent
volunteers are recruited to provide students with the mentoring services necessary to facilitate their school
adjustment and improve their academic achievement. Further, a model for the interpreter-volunteer
system has been adopted to overcome the communication barriers and establish positive relations
between multicultural and mainstream Korean families. The outcomes of the efforts undertaken by MEST
and the various offices of education should be analyzed continuously and specifically, and be adjusted as

2. 2009 MEST Multicultural Education Policy

The multicultural education policies reported in the 2009 MEST Business Plan (2008b) are to “support
specialized education for multicultural families” and “systematize education support for North Korean
refugee family students.” Specific examples of these policy objectives appear below.

Support project for the specialized education of multicultural families

The support project for the specialized education of multicultural families includes providing basic
Korean language and academic achievement programs suitable for all student ages and levels, opening
multicultural education courses in universities of education, and a program intended to strengthen cultural
understanding for general students. Additionally, a mentoring program for students from multicultural
families was included through a budget adjustment.

1) Support project for the development of multicultural education courses in universities of education

As the number of international marriage immigrants and migrant laborers increases and the children of
multicultural families begin to attend elementary school, the need for educational support of these
students and families is being addressed. The establishment of courses in multicultural education at
universities of education is intended to provide pre-service elementary teachers with opportunities to
experience and learn about different cultures, an initiative intended to help them obtain a strong
sensitivity toward diverse cultures. Begun in 2009, MEST will provide funding of 8 to 10 million KW
annually for a two-year period to universities that offer such courses (2009b).
The project guides universities of education to offer multicultural education courses that include an
introduction to multicultural society, the current status of multicultural education, the content and
methods of multicultural education, the characteristics of multicultural families (relative to language,
knowledge, and emotions), counseling and guidance, goals of multicultural education, etc. While such
instruction corresponds with school environments that are changing dramatically due to the increase in
the number of students from multicultural families, the project will prepare future elementary teachers by
imbuing them with cultural sensitivity and the attitudes necessary to promote education about social

2) Mentoring project for students from multicultural families

In 2009, MEST initiated the “multicultural family student mentoring project using university students
majoring in elementary education.” The total budget for the project is 1.5 billion KW, and the universities
participating include 10 national universities of education, the Korea Teacher University, and Ehwa
Women‟s University. The goals of the project are as follows.

                  Table 4. Goals of the 2009 multicultural family student mentoring project
                            using students at universities of elementary education
     Help students from multicultural families understand Korean society, adapt to school, and receive
      counseling and guidance
     Promote multicultural understanding among pre-service elementary teachers
     Develop a system to operate the multicultural family student mentoring project using students at
      universities of elementary education
     Provide mentoring services tailored to students from multicultural families
     Improve teacher competency through professional development and the expansion of teaching
Source: Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (2008a). 2008 Multicultural Family Students Education
Plan, Seoul: MEST (Internal resource).

Systematization of educational support provided to students from North Korean refugee families

Although separate from multicultural education support, a systematization project for educational support
to students from North Korean refugee families is being planned in the context of multicultural education.
The project is intended to provide a robust education program to facilitate the initial adaptation of North
Korean students, reinforce the stepping-stone school program of Hankyoreh middle and high schools,
apply the integral assessment of the academic achievement of former North Korean students based on
their accomplishments, ages, and learning levels, relax the standards that govern the establishment of
alternative schools for North Korean refugee students, and increase budgetary support for the specialized
education of private institutes. The project facilitates the transfer of students to regular schools after they
complete the initial adaptation program.

Capabilities and limitations of the 2009 MEST project for multicultural education

By including the projects related to multicultural issues in the 2009 MEST business plan, MEST has
demonstrated the emphasis it places on multicultural education. However, MEST executes these
multicultural education projects as a form of educational welfare. This is evidenced by the fact that the
projects are categorized in the section pertaining to business expansion of educational welfare. Further,
conducting the education project for students from North Korean refugee families separate from the
educational support to be provided to students from multicultural families confirms that the concept of
“multicultural education” accepted by MEST demonstrates “multinational-culture education.”
The approach used by MEST is both limited and reasonable. Multicultural education should be provided
not only as a method to provide welfare but also to offer education itself. The support policy oriented to
the alienated and underserved consists of an education-based policy (welfare approach) and an
educational policy (educational approach) (Park, 2006). The welfare approach provides opportunities to
receive education or offer the support necessary to receiving education. However, if children are not
motivated to learn, then the straightforward act of providing them with computers may only lead them to
a computer gaming addiction rather than excellence as students. Therefore, an educational approach that
encourages children‟s interest in learning and developing their dreams of achievement through school
education should accompany any welfare approach.

The educational approach focuses on guiding alienated and underserved families and their children to
becoming interested in education and gaining the desire to benefit from education. Effective examples of
this approach are policies intended to deploy competent and dedicated teachers to isolated regions,
prevent and reduce the direct and indirect interference by parents as students prepare for their college
entrance exams, ensure a college education and career opportunities for children of the underserved, and
to establish the infrastructure for a social mentoring system.

According to the distinctions described above, MEST executes its multicultural education business as an
education welfare business and also includes an educational approach, such as its mentoring policy.
However, most of these policies are inclined toward the welfare approach. Therefore, it is necessary to
provide additional policies intended to inspire and help children from multicultural families grow their
dreams and hopes through the advent of an educational policy approach.


1. Multicultural education policy for target populations

Parents and children from multicultural families

The strength of Korea‟s society lies in its ability to adapt quickly to change. However, in the process of
executing a multicultural education policy, despite its being well formulated, its practice often has not
been implemented in a timely and effective manner. Occasionally, the focus of a new policy was wrong
or important aspects of the new goal were overlooked, thus preventing the policy from achieving long-
term success. Notably, the multicultural education policy that is being executed currently also
demonstrates this weakness.

Although the main ideas of this policy are reflected through goal statements and descriptions, the
implementation approach necessary to actualize the ideas remains unnoticed—or the budget is lacking.
For example, substantial efforts have not yet been made to help overcome prejudice and foster the global
citizenship of the students who study alongside students from multicultural families. In addition, no
planning has been conducted to devise a strategy to improve the cultural understanding of teachers,
school administrators, and local neighbors. While the parents of multicultural families immigrated to
America from different countries and had different nationalities than those of mainstream Americans, the
children in most multicultural families in Korea have native Korean fathers. However, these children
experience significant difficulty adapting to the Korean society since its mainstream members are
excessively prejudiced. Educating the general public to understand and respect cultural diversity, and to
learn how to live together, seems much more urgent. Thus, the next step would be to help multicultural
families and their children adapt to Korean society and provide them with what they need to do so.
The specific reason why children from multicultural families must be supported is twofold; first, these
children come from multicultural families, and second, those families usually live in poverty. Support for
these families should indeed be provided as it is intended for isolated and underserved families. However,
from the multicultural education perspective, it is also urgent to provide multicultural education for the
citizens that surround those families.

Foreign sojourners

The rapid globalization that has become a hallmark of the 21st century has greatly influenced Korean
society. Many foreigners sojourn in Korea while working at Korean firms, public schools, private
institutes and foreign companies, and while attending universities. Although most foreigners leave after
completing their work or study, the need for multicultural education continues to increase.

First, short-term sojourners need multicultural education. As in America, courses in Korean language and
culture will be useful for sojourners. In the US, centers for English language and career development
educate foreigners and American citizens together to learn English and the nuances of the American
culture at no cost. Unless such programs are provided and sustained, sojourners in Korea can easily
experience discrimination from Koreans who have not been exposed to diverse cultures. Thus, these
sojourners will return home with a distinctly negative impression of the Korean society.

Multicultural education designed to introduce foreigners to Korean language and culture can be offered
not only after the arrival of these sojourners in Korea but also before their visit commences. For example,
the e-learning format can provide an optimal method with which to provide such programs in advance of
travel. If these multicultural education programs are offered at the national level in multiple languages,
such as English, Chinese, Spanish, French, and German, foreigners who intend to visit can learn about
Korea on their own through visits to the Web site before, during, and after their visit. As the program
advances, it can become the quintessential virtual school for Korean studies.

Overseas Koreans

Almost 10 million Koreans live in some 80 countries worldwide. As other countries provide multicultural
education to foreigners and immigrants, Korea also needs to make multicultural education available for
Koreans residing overseas. As compared to the “salad bowl” (Aldridge, 1993), America‟s multicultural
education aims to facilitate the harmonious contributions of each unique culture to the entire country. As
Korea‟s global recognition continues to grow, first generation overseas Koreans have begun to pay
steadily more attention to Korea. If the virtual school/online course program for the study of Korea is
provided according to their interest, then multicultural education for overseas Korean residents will have
a tremendous and positive impact.

Emigrants and sojourners

Approximately 20,000 Koreans emigrate each year, and the number of people who hope to settle in other
countries is increasing annually as well. As more multinational corporations are established, the number
of Koreans who sojourn overseas will increase. Along with that migration, the number of students
studying abroad is also increasing. While the importance of foreign language education is stressed and
college entrance requirements in Korea become steadily more competitive, many young students are
leaving Korea to study abroad. For example, among the foreign students studying in America, Koreans
are ranked third after Chinese and Indian students. In addition, in neighboring Asian countries including
China, the proportion of Korean students is very high. However, many reports have revealed that the
overall rate of academic success among these students is not remarkably high.

As soon as these Koreans arrive in another country, they become a target population that requires
multicultural education. Regardless of any attendant reasons associated with their emigration, the Korean
government must help them prepare for their resettlement in the new countries. This is of clear
importance in preventing them from regretting the travel decisions they made or worse, the general failure
of their trips, by providing them with adequate and useful information and materials before they emigrate.
Such governmental efforts can also be regarded as a form of multicultural education. Furthermore, it is
necessary to establish Web sites that provide country specific information, to include culture and
language overviews, about the nations to which Korean citizens plan to emigrate. Those efforts will
contribute to preserving travelers‟ Korean identities as well as fostering even greater familiarity with
Korea. As such, multicultural education must be provided for overseas sojourners. Consequently, the
multicultural education provided to emigrants and sojourners will reduce the likelihood that they will lose
their identity while it will assist their growth and ability to live as global citizens.

2. Policy approach and methods toward multicultural and intercultural education

At present, most forms of multicultural education are planned and delivered in an offline format. Since
the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure such as the Internet is well
established in Korea, the use of an online multicultural education format would be effective. As described
in the section concerning the multicultural education for target populations, virtual school and e-learning
can serve as core approaches toward multicultural education. That is, as the society has become
globalized rapidly with the evolvement of ICT, people could be enabled to adapt to the myriad
multicultural situations posed by the effects of globalization through the focused use of the Internet. In
designing and implementing the online multicultural education program, appropriate and supportive
education policies are necessary and the following four aspects needs to be considered.

First, in an effort to educate general students and their parents about multicultural families and their
children, the programs should be designed to accomplish the national goals that relate to multicultural
education and to satisfy the interests of parents and students in Korea. For example, international virtual
classroom exchange programs could be provided by leveraging society‟s tremendous interest in studying
English. It would indeed be helpful for students to achieve an understanding of cultural diversity by
communicating with students in different countries including the mother countries of their classmates
from multicultural families. Second, the program‟s implementation process should be practical and
sustainable. In it, teachers represent a fundamental element in putting any new educational plans into
action. Clearly, the delivery of the international program will be more feasible if it is based on teachers‟
perspectives and the roles they play in schools. Third, systematic organizational support needs to be
provided in order to help teachers guide their students toward the international exchange program. When
teachers are officially recognized and facilitated constructively by the support system, their participation
will be more active and persistent. Finally, teacher preparation programs in universities of education must
become multidisciplinary. This transformation will develop pre-service teachers‟ intercultural/
multicultural understanding, technological competence, pedagogical knowledge, and classroom
instruction skills in both physical and virtual school environments.

Research about implementation of an international virtual classroom exchange program (O‟Neill, 2007;
2008) was conducted by connecting public elementary schools in the US and Korea. Students in both
countries exchanged their thoughts regarding school life, culture, social events, and international issues
through an online learning management system. The goal of these studies was to provide intercultural
education for public school students and develop their intercultural competence, which is defined as the
ability to understand and interpret cultural diversity, and to communicate and interact effectively with
people from diverse cultures using different languages (Fantini, 2006; Lasonen, 2006). The focus of
intercultural education extends beyond that of multicultural education. In addition to the latter dealing
with the issue of mutual acceptance and tolerance of cultural diversity, which results from
immigration/emigration and/or sojourn, the former considers the application, interpretation, and
reconciliation of cultural diversity in the international context (UNESCO, 2006b). In other words, if the
goals of intercultural education are accomplished, then those of multicultural education are achieved as

The research outcomes identified the methods to deliver such multicultural and intercultural education in
an e-learning format. Since the study covers the four aspects described above and one of the target
populations was Korean students in Korea‟s public school system, it is both practical and valuable to
discuss the suggestions that accompanied the studies. Based on the outcomes of the studies, the following
suggests policy approaches that will provide concrete methods to promote intercultural education in
Korea (O‟Neill, 2008), which will either supplement the weakness of the current multicultural education
policy or advance it to the next step as discussed in the previous section.

Embracing the interests of the Korean society

The Korean society is very competitive in education, and parents and their children are extraordinarily
anxious about the national college entrance examination. Although learning an international language—
English—is essential in this globalized society, student interests tend to be centered on improving their
English test scores since English is one of the major subjects addressed in the exam. Regardless of age
level, many students find it difficult to understand the reason for studying English and can hardly meet
the requirements.

However, the international virtual classroom exchange program helped students understand the need to
learn English and motivated them to develop their English competency. This was because the program
provided students with realistic opportunities to use English based on their own desires to communicate
with friends overseas. Moreover, while communicating with each other about school life, culture, and
society, the students were able to enhance their intercultural competence as they expanded their
worldview. Students were thus empowered to overcome their prejudices and bias about other cultures and
citizens of different countries, and they began to view international issues and conflicts as if they were
directly involved.

Most importantly, as they realized that people in other cultures and nations are just like themselves, the
students also began to develop respect for those who immigrated from other countries and cultures.
Further, the students who immigrated or returned from other countries could adapt easily to the new
school environment and enhance the friendships they have with their classmates as well as their overseas
student counterparts. Instead of feeling isolated or neglected, such students received greater attention and
respect from the general students. The benefits produced by the international e-learning format should
represent the objective of Korea‟s approach to multicultural education as well as the methods adopted by
any other countries in this culturally diverse global society. While more schools and countries are
becoming involved with international virtual classroom exchange programs, the impact of the program
will ultimately encompass not only Korean students but also students from the families of immigrants and
emigrants, overseas sojourners, and students studying abroad.

Thus, diffusing such an international virtual classroom exchange program can become one of the most
effective methods of achieving the goals of multicultural/intercultural education as well as satisfying
society‟s interest in improving student English competency. The study also discovered that the teacher‟s
role is among the most significant elements that influence the effects of the program. However, the
amount of time the instructor had been teaching and his or her understanding of online teaching and
learning mechanisms affected their performance.

Conditioning teachers’ participation and effective performance

It is understood that the quality of education depends on the performance and competency of teachers.
When new education policies or programs are planned without consideration of the teachers‟ perspectives
and without support or input from teachers, those are likely to fail or to be less sustainable. The research
into implementing the international virtual classroom exchange program also confirmed the importance of
teachers‟ understanding of the programs and the need of considering teachers work environments
including their official workload, student load, and academic responsibilities.

The major hindrance to teachers‟ effective performance was lack of time due to their heavy workload at
school. Having an incomplete understanding of or competency in integrating the international online
teaching and learning mechanism with their offline classroom activities also made it difficult for teachers
to display their instructional strategies completely. To assist teachers in accomplishing their requirements
in the time allotted and to make the program sustainable, the program must be integrated with Korea‟s
central curriculum and professional development programs as necessary. Although the program used for
the study was based on the local curriculum and teacher training was indeed provided, the results
indicated that in-depth and ongoing professional development courses are needed. Such courses should
focus on developing teachers‟ intercultural and technological competencies and assisting them in
integrating the competencies associated with their pedagogical professionalism. The employment of
same-grade teachers‟ (Dong-hang-neon) collaborative instruction is also suggested as an efficient method
to reduce time consumption and balance teachers‟ individual competencies relative to technology use and

Once teachers understand the mechanism of the international virtual exchange program and its connection
to their curriculum, they will be able to use their instructional strategies confidently and efficiently.
Accordingly, the time they need to design their lessons will be reduced, and the program‟s benefits will
be maximized. However, the study also observed that such methods would not be as effectual without the
administrative and organizational support of schools and the offices of education.

Providing administrative and organizational support for a sustainable implementation

Korean schools are managed under a centralized national curriculum system. The educational goals and
plans of the local schools are closely and coherently linked to those of the offices of education as
specified by the national goals and education policy. The decentralized curriculum used in the American
education system requires local schools to teach students to accomplish the objectives prescribed by state
learning standards, but teachers are permitted to use their own teaching materials and curriculum.
Although Korean schoolteachers are encouraged to utilize the national textbook as one of the teaching
materials, in reality, they are obligated to guide students to reach the objectives mandated by the subject
curriculum by teaching the contents of the textbook. This implies that the international virtual classroom
exchange program also needs to be recognized as a part of the national curriculum, thus reflecting
Korea‟s national education goals and policy. The time and effort invested by teachers to deliver the
program should also be credited to them officially, and school leadership should provide teachers with a
systematic and official system for technological and instructional support.
This approach is particularly advantageous since the current education policy already aims to cultivate
global citizenship, strengthen English education, and use ICT in teaching and learning. Thus, it would be
more practical if the education policy were to emphasize specifically the use of the international virtual
classroom exchange program as a national campaign to promote multicultural and intercultural education.
Further, offices of education can facilitate the program‟s diffusion by designating model schools for its
implementation. Moreover, they can encourage teachers to make the practice more educational and
sustainable. If the offices of education allow international training institutes, local schools, or themselves
to deliver ongoing professional development courses and grant promotion credits to teachers who take the
course, the diffusion of high quality intercultural education programs can be expedited and sustained.
Notably, support by the ministry or offices of education in establishing an international school network
will be helpful in sustaining the implementation.

School administrators can designate the chief teacher of the class research and curriculum department to
lead the integration of the international exchange program with the school‟s curriculum. The chief teacher
of the information and technology department can direct the technological coordination and support for
online activities. School administrators can facilitate teachers‟ collaboration for the implementation of
multicultural/intercultural education by encouraging them to use the school‟s communication channels,
such as meetings among the same-grade teachers (Dong-hang-neon hwai), leadership (Bujang hwai) or
the whole school teachers (Jickwon jongle). Also, open class observation would provide a good method to
help teachers understand the value of the programs and develop their instructional strategies with
assistance from peers. Since school administrators are positioned at the center of the school level practice
and national level policy, workshops or training programs that relate to the roles of school administrators
will be necessary to increase the coherency between practice and policy.

In addition to the systematic organizational support provided to the professional field of education, it is
important to associate the schools‟ practice of the multicultural/intercultural education program with pre-
service teacher preparation and academic research in teacher education programs at the university level.

Transforming university level teacher education programs

Interculturally competent teachers are more proficient at engaging students in intercultural learning
environments, and they serve as appropriate guides to help students develop intercultural competence.
When teachers are able to use ICT comfortably and understand the effects of using appropriate
technologies, they can demonstrate the excellence of their instructional strategies when guiding students‟
communications and interactions with their overseas friends in the online learning spaces. Since
international virtual classroom exchange programs will use international languages such as English,
teachers‟ understanding of foreign language acquisition and their communicative skills will be also

However, to be able to use these intercultural, technological, and communicative competencies
effectively in their pedagogical applications, teachers should be educated sufficiently regarding the
academic theories that address multicultural/intercultural education, international language education, and
instructional technology, and the relationships they have with the concepts and practices of teaching and
learning. The teacher education programs taught at the university level institutions dedicate a
considerable number of credit hours to student teaching. As such, training pre-service teachers to apply
the knowledge and competencies they obtain to real teaching environments is important. That is, to
produce interculturally, technologically, linguistically, and pedagogically competent teachers, long-term
and holistic teacher preparation programs must be planned.
Specifically, the teacher education programs administered by university level institutions need to develop
and provide appropriate multidisciplinary programs. In addition to only multicultural/intercultural
education, English as an international language (Seidlhofer, 2002) education and instructional technology,
including online teaching and learning theories and practices should become required courses. Further,
these courses must be integrated with other courses on pedagogy and subject-specialized education.
Notably, the English education programs at universities of education should address the theory and
practice of teaching and learning intercultural communicative competence (Byram, 1997, 2001; Fantini,

Furthermore, universities can join international and intercultural networks of teacher education to
cooperatively research and implement intercultural education programs for schools around the world.
Through this network, university students and professors can also experience international and
intercultural course exchanges and develop their own intercultural and communicative competence. In
addition, teacher education programs can associate the multidisciplinary program with student teaching
courses in collaboration with local and international schools. Along with the online course exchange
program, the online and offline field experience of intercultural education will prepare pre-service
teachers to guide their students confidently and proficiently when they become teachers.

The 2009 multicultural education policy includes a support project for the development of multicultural
education courses at universities of elementary education. It is both timely and appropriate that MEST
support the universities of education by providing elementary pre-service teachers with opportunities to
experience diverse cultures. The holistic transformation and internationalization of teacher education
programs described above will provide specific methods to actualize the policy. The MEST support
project should also be expanded to include these efforts in the teacher education programs administered
by all university level institutions.


The Korean society has become multicultural due to the increased number of international marriages,
international trainees, illegal immigrants, and North Korean refugees. Most of the target students for
multicultural education are born in Korea and only one of the parents has a nationality different from
Korean. Due to their homogeneous race history, Koreans are likely to hold prejudices and biases against
people from other cultures, and this has become an issue in education. Thus, MEST has established policy
goals for multicultural education, which focus on supporting the adaptation to society of students from
multicultural families, promoting cultural understanding among general students, and helping students
from multicultural families become globally competent human resources. However, the policy was
somewhat limited because of an insufficient and inefficient budget assignment and the inconsistency of
organizational cooperation with student-oriented education. MEST reemphasizes the need for local
government support to school-oriented, customizable education for multicultural families, and systematic
education support for students from families of North Korean refugees. Notably, most policies are based
on a welfare approach; however, additional policies that maintain an education approach are needed.

Therefore, this paper suggests policies for the implementation of multicultural education tailored
specifically for Korea‟s situation. This multicultural education should be provided not only to students
and parents who have different national backgrounds and are living in Korea, but also to foreign
sojourners, overseas Koreans, Korean emigrants and sojourners, and general public in order to achieve
mutual adaptation and intercultural understanding on a global scale. Along with these offline approaches,
online approaches should also be initiated. International virtual schools that utilize an e-learning format
can engage each of the target populations mentioned above. While the international virtual classroom
exchange program allows students to share their lives, cultures, and international issues with their
counterparts in different countries, students also develop intercultural competence beyond simply
achieving the objectives of multicultural education. Nevertheless, policies that facilitate support for
teachers‟ performance, organizational support, and the transformation of teacher preparation programs are
essential in making the program even more comprehensive and beneficial.

Lastly, although this policy is suggested for Korea, the importance of these suggestions is that the success
of the policy being suggested can serve as a model for other countries in which the school systems and
the needs of society are similar to those in Korea. In addition, the international virtual classroom
exchange cannot be accomplished by Korea alone. When nations worldwide participate in such programs,
their beneficial impacts for the global society will increase remarkably. Most importantly, if there is a
means available to help students around the world grow as competent global citizens and learn to care
about each other, why would any country not want to participate? Moreover, why would policy makers
choose not to provide the support necessary to make such programs more effective and sustainable?


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