Articles From the June 1994 Unification News
A Visit to the Little Angels School
by Gregory Breland
Being in Korea to organize the ICUS Planning Board meeting in preparation for the 20th ICUS, as well as attend the 40th Anniversary of HSA-UWC, after everything was finished I made a visit to the Little Angels School in Seoul to see what the Western program there was really like. Escorted by Michael and Soon-ja Richardson, I got my first look at the inside workings of the program.
The Little Angels School is a large complex consisting of an elementary, middle and high school as well as a Performing Arts Center. The Farewell Banquet for the 40th Anniversary was held at the Performing Arts Center, the entertainment being provided by the Universal Ballet and the Little Angels, themselves. Because of the high academic and artistic standard and beautiful buildings, the school has the nick name of the "Juliard of Korea."
The Western and Japanese students have a separate building toward the back of the complex where they study in separate classrooms. The first year which starts in late August includes: Korean Language, Math, English and Korean History, it is called the General Orientation Program (GOP). Those who successfully complete the first year have another 6 months or so of intense Korean and are eligible in April to start their first year of Korean Middle School with a teacher who only speaks Korean and in a classroom full of Korean students. To state it mildly, it is a challenge.
Though it is difficult to be away from home for an extended period for these 12-13 year olds, they, for the most part, seem to adjust making good friends among the other Blessed Children. In fact their experience is similar to "center life." 20 Westerners and 20 Japanese are accepted each year and they all live together dormitory style near campus. It was the original intention that the children be housed in church member's homes and be taken in as part of the family while they attended school in Korea. The expenses of each child is covered by the parents. Primarily because of the Korean custom of treating guests like kings, there has been difficulty in getting members to volunteer their homes. Another consideration may also be the smallness of the living space in Seoul. Some progress is being made, though. Over the last Christmas break many Western children stayed in a Korean home with very good results.
Some disappointment has been expressed in that no Western child has graduated, as yet, from the Little Angels High School although several Japanese children have and some have even gone on to study in a Korean college. It is hoped by some of the organizers that more can be expected from the Western children and this will help them to be more serious and accomplish more while in Korea. Each child with his parents decides the length of time the child will stay at the school, and this is done usually a year at a time, though it is recommended that children coming in make a commitment for two years. Presently the cost for room, food, tuition and incidentals in $405 per month and does not include air fare to and from Seoul.
In comparison to the colorful walls I am accustomed to seeing in America, the classrooms at the Little Angels School are in stark contrast. The walls are bare except for a blackboard at one end, in front of which in the teacher's desk and rows of desks. It is interesting to note that while they may not have as many computers or educational aids, that Korean students score significantly higher than their American counterparts on standardized tests. The training the students receive appear to serve them well not only educationally, but, also, emotionally and spiritually.
Another significant aspect of the program is the strict separation of the sexes. Whereas in American schools things are getting out of hand with flirting, dating, talk about sex in the classroom, teen-age pregnancy and condom disbursement, there is, relatively speaking, none of that in Korea. At this formative age of early teens this may be one of the program's strongest assets.
As I was there at the school I happened upon an old friend, Lynne Doerffler Kim who is working with the Universal Ballet there. She is interested in locating any parents who would be willing to exchange children for a month during the summer. This would give each child a wonderful exposure to a different culture. She has five children from kindergarten through high school. If you would like to discuss it with her, her phone number is 82-2/452-1392 and her Fax number is 82-2/456- 3271.
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