Bendigo Education students Zoom into South Korea in pilot program

Education student James Antonic had hoped to travel abroad as part of his course. Despite the pandemic grounding those plans, he’s about to experience the next best thing.

James is one of three Bendigo students taking part in an international work placement, from home. The trio will spend ten weeks Zooming into English lessons in South Korean classrooms.

“I want to get into TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) so when I saw this notification in my emails, I thought, this seems perfect,” James says.

The pilot program will see pre-service teachers join a South Korean classroom two days a week, with the support of Korean-speaking Australian trained teachers and the local Korean English teacher.

Director of Professional Experience Dr Jacolyn Weller says the opportunity is only possible because of the high level of technology in South Korean schools.

“This is the first international placement of this type, which we in the School of Education hope to expand upon,” Dr Weller says.

“This professional experience enables pre-service teachers to gain a cultural teaching experience by taking the maximum advantage of technology in Covid times. By thinking laterally in initial teacher education our pre-service teachers can gain so much.”

For James, it’ll present a number of cultural and technological experiences.

“I think one of the biggest challenges will be making the connections, relationship-building and engagement virtually,” he says. “I think I’ll definitely be getting a whole new experience than if I was going there in person. I haven’t had any experience with remote teaching, so I’ll definitely be getting something new out of it.”

James is studying to become an English and Psychology teacher, and as such has already completed two work placements teaching those subjects to Bendigo secondary students.

The early experiences have helped cement his choice of vocation.

“I like helping people and I feel like this is the best way I can do that,” he says. “I really enjoyed school. The teachers I liked, they really impacted me. I want to be that person for other people.”

After his four-year degree James plans to work as a CRT and pursue post-graduate study in TESOL.

“I’ve been to Japan a couple of times,” he says, “I just really love intercultural communication and I’m interested in learning about different cultures.

“I had looked into doing an international exchange but of course Covid happened and made that impossible. This is definitely the next best thing … once this is all over, I might pay South Korea a visit and experience it first-hand.”

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