Think big, act small and move fast! A visit to South-Korea

Published on
March 23, 2018

Recently, Michiel Hupkes and Hansje Eppink visited South-Korea. The aim of this visit was to share experiences and exploring opportunities how elements of a competence-based education approach can be beneficial for the undergraduate programme that is offered by the department Functional Foods and Biotechnology at Jeonju University. 'Think big, act small and move fast' were almost the first words they heard, when they discussed the vision of the future for the department (and the university).

The interesting part of the visit was that it was a mixture of mutual learning, providing training sessions, conducting class observations, interviewing students/alumni, talking with the World-of-Work and the management of Jeonju University.

South Korea is a very organised, wealthy and modern country. The people of South Korea are said to be very competitive and there is a huge focus on ranking systems. Sometimes this was difficult to match with the people Michiel and Hansje met as they were open, curious and sharing strengths and challenges. Furthermore they were taking very good care of them which gave them the opportunity to, besides learning a lot about the undergraduate program and Jeonju University, to learn a lot about South Korean culture and food.

The undergraduate program was rather knowledge oriented using a transmissive type of teaching approach. Though, it was interesting to see how fast the teachers used the ideas (like icebreakers) Michiel and Hansje used themselves in the training sessions. The students they interviewed were aware of the need for change and often mentioned the lack of interdisciplinary, hands-on and experiential learning opportunities. The employers were eager to strengthen their relationship with Jeonju university since they said that currently they need to provide a 10 months training on the job for new employees. And two out of three are leaving the company within a year due to a mismatch in expectations.

While discussing the competence-based education approach with the management of the Jeonju university they expressed their interest and questioned Michiel and Hansje seriously about the strengths of a competence-based education method and the quality of Wageningen University; “are you the best in competence-based education in the Netherlands, how much will it cost to implement it, and can you give a detailed schedule of the change process”? This was a tough discussion mainly because implementing a competence-based education approach is asking for a culture shift from management, World-of-Work, teachers and students which is an iterative process while the management was asking us to provide them a linear script.

The first future activity is that a team of Jeonju University accompanied by a film crew will visit Wageningen University to experience and record our education approach. Secondly, the management of Jeonju University will have an in-depth discussion on how to proceed to innovate their education. Michiel and Hansje will keep in contact to discuss how they could support them to enrich this educational change process.

Jeonju University has ambitions (big ones); they want to start quick (and probably with small steps) and they (we do not know how many people in the University) know that fast action is needed.