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South Korean officials observe local schools

Seeking to improve programs for disabled students in their country and address such problems as bullying, South Korean education officials this month visited Smithtown and Harborfields high schools.

South Korea is considering reforms that would “take care of all students and not just the high achievers,” said John Kalaboukas, one of two St. John’s University professors who arranged the visit. The other St. John's professor was Seokhee Cho. 

During field trips to Smithtown High School West on Feb. 2 and Harborfields High School in Greenlawn last Friday, the 26-member delegation received booklets on bullying and student codes of conduct, visited physical education classes and saw handicapped children interacting with able-bodied students. In South Korea, gym classes are less common and disabled students often are assigned to separate schools, Kalaboukas said.

“They were very impressed we have children in wheelchairs here,” Smithtown High School West Principal John Coady said, adding the South Koreans were surprised to see teachers using Smart Boards.

South Korean students perform well on exams, but officials in that country worry that children are not adept at critical thinking and problem solving — skills emphasized by American teachers, Kalaboukas said.

“They learned quite a bit while they were here,” Kalaboukas said. He called Smithtown and Harborfields “top-notch school districts.”


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