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Building Bridges, A Taste of Korea

Was I fortunate? Lucky perhaps? Blessed? Privileged? I just couldn’t contain the overwhelming feelings that I had when I was chosen as one of the representatives to the 2015 Korea-Philippines Teacher Exchange Program. The same feelings lingered on as I observed and experienced the beauty of South Korea, the richness of its culture, the politeness and kindness of its people, and the strengths of the Korean Educational system.

As exchange teachers,we became ambassadors of Filipino heritage and culture.I was given the rare chance to introduce and share Filipino culture with our Asian neighbors – the Koreans, through our lessons. My Korean pupils embraced our language, songs, and the like. I was elated when pupils started greeting me with “Kumusta?” and enthusiastically sing “Bahay Kubo” with me. The eagerness and interest to learn about a foreign culture were evident in their smiles and active participation during our class discussions and activities. Who would ever think that our culture class would be featured in the News Program of the Seoul Broadcasting Station? (I never imagined myself appearing on TV but I did. In Korea at that!) Thus, to a wider audience, we stood proud as Filipino teachers building connections between two different cultures.

However, learning is always a two-way street. As they learned from us, we, too learned so much from them especially about their educational system. With my partner teacher, we were assigned at Daegu Sindang Elementary School. Although it was a public school, it was refreshing to see its adequate physical facilities and advanced technical resources. With the ready teaching resources using ICT, teaching was easy and enjoyable. I also admired the pro-active parental involvement, parents on duty took charge of pupils crossing the streets.

As one enters the school premises, Arirang music echoes in the air. At every turn, nook, and corner of the school, one is exposed to Korean artwork and traditional lifestyle. “Classical scholars” or their Cultural Guru (older generation) come to teach about Korean history and culture such as the proper way of bowing and the traditional Korean games. Learners have hands on experience on how to conduct the tea ceremony as well as how to wear Hanbok (traditional Korean dress). The school holds a multi-cultural week twice in a school year and a festival of culture where there are different booths that showcase the various aspects of a country’s culture. The school also gives support during the celebration of festivals by sending students who play traditional instruments. It is indeed a school that fosters love of Korean culture as well as cultural diversity. Probably, this is one way by which they develop their strong sense of nationalism.

To maximize the impact of the 2015 Korea-Philippines Teacher Exchange Program, I and my fellow exchange teachers, were asked to come up with a re-entry plan that we can adapt in our Division.

There are a number of programs and activities of my host school that can be feasibly applied to my home school with dedication, commitment, time, effort, and resources.

The following are the suggested activities and programs that may be adapted in our home school/ division with a different twist:

Field trips

I joined a number of field trips which were both educational and culturally enriching. In those field trips, the pupils had to answer the activity sheets prepared by the teachers or the activity booklets that the museums provide. This we can also replicate during our field trips as it provides focus on the significant learning embodied in the trips proving that teaching can be fun.

Bulletin Boards

In every class, I noticed that outputs are displayed artistically strengthening the sense of ownership and pride of the pupils. Some teachers here are already doing this, but not everybody does. We should allot a space to display students’ work to motivate them more.

Breaks after each Class

In Korea, each subject is allotted 40 minutes and at the end of each subject, students have a 10-minute break. Each break serves as a transition phase from one subject to another which allows the pupils to rest and relax. During these breaks, the teacher may play some video clips of songs and dances, read books, give some ice breakers or let students do some stretching.This we can apply but we can shorten it to a 5 minute teacher guided/monitored -break.


When it comes to technology, South Korea is very advanced. Ready-made teaching resources or programs can be acquired by the school or the teachers themselves which showcase interactive learning through ICT. Since most schools in San Juan already have the E-rooms, we just have to maximize their use. Most teachers now are adept with the use of computers so lessons can now be done using powerpoint presentations. Sharing of lesson plans and powerpoint presentations can create a spirit of oneness wherein teachers can help their colleagues. We can create files like these, not only on the school level but division- wide. The lack of LCD projectors can be addressed either by seeking the help of the PTA, LGUs and other stakeholders. What we lack in technology, we compensate with our creativity and resourcefulness.

Revival of Filipino Folk Songs

As pupils gather for the flag ceremony, Philippine folk songs can be played to familiarize them with our traditional Filipino songs such as “Leron Leron Sinta,” “Paru-parong Bukid,’ and “Sitsiritsit Alibangbang.” Most pupils learn these songs during their Music class. This learning can be reinforced by playing this kind of music more often.

Traditional Instruments

Many Korean students know how to play their traditional musical instruments. Divisions/schools should also start acquiring Filipino traditional instruments like “bungkaka,” “dabakan,” and “kudyapi” to expose the students more on how these are played and for them to appreciate the music/sound produced by playing those traditional instruments.

Cultural Week

During the celebration of the “Buwan ng Wika”, we can also have the Cultural Week. It is suggested that not only dances, poems, poster-making contest, essay-writing contest, quiz bee, and plays be conducted. The head of the Filipino subject should coordinate with other subject teachers to plan activities that promote cultural awareness. In Physical education, one can have the “Laro ng Lahi”, to promote the traditional games like “Luksong Tinik,” “Piko,” and “Patintero” and explain to the children the benefits of playing these games. Moreover, the Home Economics teacher can also teach the students how to cook Filipino traditional dishes during this month-long celebration or hold a cooking or food festival. In Character Education, the teacher can teach the distinct Filipino values of showing respect like the use of “Po” and “Opo,” “Mano po” and the spirit of “Bayanihan”.

United Nations’ Day “Add-ons”

During the celebration of the United Nations’ Day, what we are accustomed to is showcasing the dance and the costumes of the different nations.To add excitement and interest to this activity, we can put up booths showcasing the different cultural elements such as artwork and food that represent a particular country.

Exposure to Other Culture

Although the demography of most public schools in the Philippines is generally Filipino, it will be a meaningful learning experience for our students if a foreigner or a resource person from another country will share his or her culture with them. This can be done thru the initiative and leadership of the Social Studies teachers who can go to some embassies/organizations or inquire by phone/internet if those mentioned have programs or staff that can do this sharing of culture to public school students.

Posting Pictures that Depict Filipino Culture

To make students more aware and familiar with the Philippine culture, pictures/illustrations showing the different aspects of Philippine culture can be displayed on designated bulletin boards in the school lobby or along the corridors.

Korean Exchange Teacher

Since the UNESCO-APCEIU sends exchange teachers to the Philippines, it is also recommended that they share their culture not only to the host school but also to other schools within the Division City where they are assigned. That is, if they have the time and opportunity to do so since most schools in the Philippines have a big student population. This will give more Filipino children opportunity to learn more about Korean culture.

Here are some pictures that highlight my experiences. Enjoy!

Belinda P. Guevarra Delegate to the 2015 Korea-Philippines Teacher-Exchange Program Pinaglabanan Elementary School Division of San Juan City

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