This coming week, over Spring Break, I will be leading a Fairfax County delegation to Korea on behalf of the school board, with all expenses paid by the Korean government, to learn more about their educational practices. I will be joined by three FCPS Instructional Service administrators, one principal and ten teachers.
In advance of our trip, I sat down with Ilryong Moon, School Board Chairman, to trace the history of our enduring partnership with South Korea, which he helped initiate a few years ago.
Because of the stellar reputation of our school system and our proximity to Washington, D.C., foreign governments often approach Fairfax County with interest in forming collaborations or, at the very least, touring our facilities with visiting delegations from their respective countries. That is how FCPS became engaged with South Korea, arguably Fairfax County’s most prominent international partner.
Beginning in 2009, the Korean Embassy approached Fairfax County seeking to begin a placement program for students with college majors in English Education from Korea. That year, 10 student interns from Korean education schools spent a semester in FCPS schools with host teachers. Because the interns were receiving college credit, they paid tuition to their institutions to participate in the program and the government funded the associated FCPS administrative costs.
After that first year, the Korean Education Department needed to cut costs, and the program was dropped. However, when the Korean government’s funding returned in 2012, representatives again approached FCPS with funding to send two groups of math and science educators to intern with FCPS host teachers, and another group will be coming this fall to intern, as well.
A primary goal of the program is to foster teacher exchanges, which is why Korea sponsors trips for FCPS educators. In exchange for hosting Korean intern teachers for two semesters, 10 FCPS math and science mentor teachers will experience the ultimate professional development opportunity—visiting their former interns in Seoul next week to learn more about educational practices in Korea.
Recently, the Taiwanese government has signed on to foster a similar exchange with FCPS. Over the coming years, I will be working with the pioneering Ilryong Moon, my school board colleagues and our new superintendent to determine how we can strategically expand these exchange opportunities—not just for teachers, but for students, as well.