A visit from South Korea opened a discussion on the core values in the Swedish education system
On the 16th of January 2020, the Centre of East and Southeast Asian Studies of Lund University had the pleasure to welcome a South Korean delegation consisting of people of different ages and occupations on a visit to Scandinavia with the 꿈틀비행기 Ggumtle Airplane travel program.
As described on the official website, Ggumtle Airplane travel program offers unique trips that go beyond the typical package tour: the purpose of these trips is to immerse oneself in the history, culture and daily life of the visited countries in order to gain a deeper insight into their societies.
Following the recent World Happiness Reports released by the UN, Scandinavian countries were chosen as the travel destinations of this peculiar travel program. The aim of Ggumtle Airplane is to offer participants the opportunity to discover the reasons contributing to the typical Scandinavian happiness, through the understanding of the countries’ welfare system. For this purpose, the tour includes visits to various governmental institutions, such as schools and prisons.
Ggumtle Airplane, which literally translates to “Wriggling Airplane”, is organized by OhmyNews online newspaper, whose CEO Oh Yeon-ho had previously visited our Centre in 2018 to hold a lecture about citizen participatory journalism in South Korea. Since then, the relationship between Mr Oh and the Centre of East and Southeast Asian Studies has been very close, which is why the travel program decided to visit Lund University and discuss the Swedish education system together with its students.
The meeting with Ggumtle Airplane proved to be an interesting opportunity for the exchange of opinions and experiences. The discussion was held in the Asia Library, and started with an introduction made by Professor Hansson about the core values on which Lund University is founded, emphasising its commitment to safeguarding democracy, impartiality, freedom of opinion and research, as well as the respect for the equal value of all human beings (for an overview see https://www.lunduniversity.lu.se/about/about-lund-university/mission-vis...). Afterwards, the students were invited to take the floor and share their experience at Lund University and with the Swedish education system. The students gave a detailed description of the Swedish welfare system, the teaching methods and the student life, drawing the attention to the equal relationship between teachers and students, the focus on individuality and the multicultural environment enriching Lund University.
Sohee Park, a journalist for the OhmyNews legal team, summed up the visit to the Centre in this way: “Our team expected to get an understanding of the motto of Lund university, its student's life, and education system. After meeting with the students and looking around the Asia library, we got a little clue. Lund University is filled with respect for individuality, diversity. That's very impressive.” Regarding more take-aways she said: “The Korean education system is much more competitive than the Swedish one. So we were very moved ... I felt the spirit of equality and diversity in every student’s word”, as they conveyed a strong message of academic freedom and inclusion that she grasped despite the language and cultural barriers.
Ha Sojeong, a young student of Sungshin Women's University, further praised the variety of departments and courses offered at Lund University, expressing her surprise to learn about the existence of a centre entirely dedicated to Asian Studies, in which students coming from very diverse majors can gather and discuss the same topic, freely exchanging their knowledge and opinions.
Another aspect which left her impressed was the relationship between teachers and students at Lund University: while in Korea, she affirms, “one-way communication” is the ruling system and classes are entirely led by the professor with little or no contribution from the students; in Sweden classes are based on interaction and students are invited to actively take part in the class and contribute to the discussion. This system, she continues, gives great significance to the students’ opinions, which teachers respect despite their higher academic position.
In this regard, the students of the Centre of Asian Studies pointed out that students of Swedish universities hold the power to influence their studies through course evaluations, in which they can suggest changes and improvements to the program. Furthermore, it was also underlined how classes and seminars are an important opportunity for students to exercise critical thinking through group discussions, an essential practice to uphold democracy in the university environment and beyond.
- Meeting report by Valeria Raimondo, first year student on the Masters Progarmme in Asian Studies