April 03, 2006 22:12
Gyeonggi Province Governor Sohn Hak-kyu has come out in defense of the so-called "English Villages" after the education minister over the weekend said such total-immersion language learning facilities are a waste of money.
"I say with confidence that the Gyeonggi English Village can be compared to the world's top designer goods," Sohn said at the opening of Paju English Village on Monday.
The governor played a leading role in promoting the nation's first English Village directly operated by the local government. "Students who learn here will grow into 'Global Koreans' with confidence in their English skills and a sense of global etiquette," he added.
"The amount of money Korea spends on private education per year is the largest at 2.9 percent of GDP among OECD member nations, resulting in growing conflict among different social classes and regions, and even causing couples to avoid having children," Sohn said. He said English Villages would become "base camps where reform in public education can start to resolve all of those problems."
Sohn expressed deep regret at Education Minister Kim Jin-pyo's remarks that no more such facilities should be built since they are so expensive and it would be more efficient to hire "three native-speaking English teachers in every school in the country."
"I can't understand Kim. He gave such high praise to the English Village, saying Gyeonggi Province had 'done all that this nations should do' at the opening ceremony of Ansan English Village last September. Now he has completely changed tack on the villages," Sohn said.
In remarks targeting both government and ruling party, Sohn said, "Rich and powerful people like [Uri Party leader] Chung Dong-young can send their children overseas to learn English, but ordinary people who don't have enough money definitely need quality language learning facilities like the English Villages."
Sohn countered objections that an English Village faces losses of some W100 billion in operating cost annually for the time being, saying, "Such losses can be justified as an investment to provide quality English education and save the large sum of money spent on sending our children overseas."
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