Korea is gradually progressing into a multicultural society. However, multicultural education is rarely provided in Korea and current university students did not receive compulsory education on multiculturalism during their mandatory school years.
“Although I remember coming across the topic of multiculturalism in social studies class, I don’t recall any classes which specifically dealt with how we should behave in a multicultural society,” said Park Yun-su, a freshman in HOKMA College.
As a response to the lack of education on multiculturalism, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and Korean Institute for Healthy Family initiated Danuri School to help people better understand and accept multicultures that make up Korean society. Danuri School is an online website which features materials on understanding multicultural societies and applications for signing up for offline multicultural education classes.
Online education consists of five different courses: a basic course, a course for educators, a course for workers in multicultural-related sectors, a course for office workers, and a course for adolescents. All the online courses are free of charge and provide video clips on what each course trainee needs to know about multicultural societies. Offline courses can be taken after registering for an offline class on the website. Professional instructors, who were recruited by Danuri School and received training, come and give lectures in person. There are other events held by Danuri School such as campaigns and contests for submitting posters to change perceptions on multicultural societies.
The Ministry of Education suggested on the 2018 multicultural education support plan that each school should provide a class or extracurricular program for more than two hours a year to make students aware of multicultural societies. This lacks concreteness and time compared with the programs provided for students from multicultural families. There are study classes led by university student mentors, a special class named Global Bridge, which helps students develop their strengths, and counseling programs for students from multicultural families.
“I received classes on cultural education at school only with other students from multicultural families,” said Lee Bo-gyeong, a freshman majoring Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering. “In the cultural education class, I wore hanbok and drank traditional Korean tea. I also participated in study classes where university student mentors came and taught me subjects that I lacked knowledge in.”
However, Lee also expressed that she was disappointed that the classes reflected merely on the negative aspects of multicultural families. “I recall classes dealing with multicultural society that everyone in my class participated in,” Lee said. “However, it simply explained that multicultural families are those that either have a mother or father from another country. I was sad that it only emphasized the negative sides of multicultural families, saying that students from those families have a hard time because of language and cultural differences.”
Danuri School does not convey how multicultural families are having a hard time, but makes efforts to change biased views on multicultural societies. For example, it provides video clips on Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino and Mongol culture to let people better understand cultural differences. There are also pamphlets designed with the famous character Pororo so that kids will accept multicultural society more easily and feel more familiar with it.
“I believe it is a good idea to have an online website which gives free education on multicultural societies,” Lee said. “I hope the website can work to convey information on multicultural societies as well as change prejudices on it.”