Today one of my class topics is about trips, travelling and holidays. As I write the same questions (though with higher grammar) that I feel like I have been asking forever I ask myself, do these kids actually study geography OR care about non-Korean geography? I know the answer is no for the second one (for many many kids). Whenever I play a game in class I try to encorporate an element of geography in the hope that they will appreciate that other countries barring Korea, Japan, America and Canada exist. They may know the name of other places but know little about them or care even less.
One of my major gripes about some of my students has been their lack of imagination. For some but not all, the cruelest thing you can ask one of them is to think for themselves and be creative. Today I will be hit with the usual "I don't know" when I ask about vacation destinations or "Korea. I'm Korean". It's enough to make me lose my temper, but I won't. Though I may bang my head against a wall.
Putting it bluntly most of my student's have an appalling lack of knowledge of geography and the world. It's not a new observation but I've been thinking about it over the last few weeks and been shaking my head. Sometimes I wonder what they actually learn at school. Whatever it is, it is limiting and doing them both a disservice and an injustice.
For the younger students I can understand that they lack information and knowledge of the world but there's no excuse for the older ones. When I was their age I studied geography for five years at Secondary school. I also studied History at the same time. Both gave me an appreciation and a basic understanding that the world is bigger than my own country and that their are many interesting people and cultures across the world.
How many times have my students asked me where I am from when it is obvious I don't come from North America or Australia? The only thing my students know about England is footballer Park Ji Sung or just football. Why are Korean students so abysmal in general at geography? Do they actually study this in class? These are the seeds sown by years and years of a policy of isolation and rejection of other cultures.
This month one of Korea's superstars, Kim Yu-Na is going for gold in the Winter Olympics in Canada, yet precious few know much about that country. If I showed these kids a map, then I think three things would happen. 1) They wouldn't know many countries there. 2) They would find Korea, of course. 3) They would complain that Korea is too small. And not, that other countries are bigger and have bigger populations. Geography is important.