From Mechanics to Web Designers: Sunrin Internet High School, Republic of Korea
May 2002Located down a narrow street in a quiet section of central Seoul, the Sunrin Internet High School is identified by a large gray stone marker. The stone harks back to traditional Korea, with its elegant characters written in the country’s Hangul alphabet. But what is going on in the school is definitely the future. Although all of Korea’s primary and secondary schools have computers and Internet connections (the latter accomplished in December 2000), Sunrin is different in that the high school has been designated as Seoul’s only Internet high school (two years ago) and only one of two in the country.
Sunrin has traditionally been noted for its quality of its instruction (as well as its baseball team). It has around 1’000 students and 80 teachers. School hours are 8:30 – 3:30 pm but some students are so hooked they stay until 10 pm. Sunrin is a senior high school, roughly equivalent to grades 10-12 in a western school with students aged 16-18. Like at all Korean schools, the students wear uniforms that vary by age and sex.
There are over 600 PCs and 16 PC Labs, many with the latest equipment. Most PCs are Samsung brand, manufactured by Korea’s largest electronics company. The school has two E1 (2.048 Mbps) lines for Internet access paid by the government; much faster than the normal 256 kbps for schools the government provides.
It is still too early to tell what kinds of jobs the students will get since the first batch has not yet graduated. There is job training through cooperation with industry and some students are already doing business on the side. It was noted that the Internet allows a student’s web site, if well done, to be indistinguishable from those of large companies.
Before learning focused on text but now includes images and sounds. Movement, sound, and design are important at the school since they form part of the new digital content. Sunrin is also big on music and there is a lab with equipment for experimenting with digital sounds. The advantage is that you do not have to have the actual instrument, allowing many more students to participate in learning music. Students make their own music, including adding soundtracks to videos they have created. Content development is also taught. For example students study Japanese Manga cartoons for insight into graphical design.
There are plans to create a cyber library. It is expected that in the future students will not need to bring text books since digital version will be available on the school web site. Other schools could also download the textbook authored by Sunrin teachers, a pretty prolific lot that have already written 15.
Sunrin, a traditional vocational school, was selected as an Internet school because of the enthusiasm of the principal and teachers. According to the principal, a traditional vocational school is useless in today’s increasingly information-driven society. Information Technology (IT) is not entirely new at Sunrin, which introduced an Apple Macintosh in 1979 and incorporated computers into the curriculum in 1982.
Teachers are taught IT skills at a private academy funded by the Ministry of Information and Communication. All teachers have their own PC and Internet access.
Computer training is divided into four departments: Internet Information Communication, Web-Managing, Electronic Commerce and Multi-Media Design. Classes range from Unix to learning Web design. Students also take four hours of English a week. In addition, there are extra non-IT courses to compensate for too much exposure to computers.
An interesting example of the multimedia approach is a math class that uses an electronic chalkboard to teach students how to program Eratosthenes Sieve, an algorithm for identifying prime numbers. Thus students learn math and computer programming as well as some English, killing three birds at once.
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Updated : 2007-08-28