The UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies (GSE&IS) and Hanmi Bank welcomed local Korean/Korean American business and cultural leaders to an event on May 14 titled, “Promoting Multiculturalism in K-12 Schools: The Significance of the Korean Community,” highlighting bilingual literacy for students in Los Angeles, with an emphasis on Korean as one of the city’s key languages.
At the luncheon, sponsored by Hanmi Bank, presentations by Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, GSE&IS dean, Patricia Gándara, professor of education, and Queena Kim, assistant principal, UCLA Community School, showcased GSE&IS’s commitment to dual-language learning as a template for educating a global society. In addition, doctoral candidate Jongyeon “Joy” Ee of the Urban Schooling Division shared her dissertation research on parents who choose to enroll their children in Korean-English dual-language programs.
Dean Suárez-Orozco and Ji Eun Lee Park, manager of Creative Strategy at Hanmi Bank, welcomed about 50 guests to Roy’s Restaurant in the financial district of Downtown L.A. Suárez-Orozco highlighted the importance of education in the Korean culture, and the significance of bilingual learning in a global city such as Los Angeles, which is home to the second largest South Korean population in the world.
“We at UCLA have so much to learn from a culture that has worshipped education for 3,000 years,” Suárez-Orozco noted. “[Our] partnership with Hanmi Bank is [an important step in connecting] with our Korean neighbors in the community.”
Kim, an alumna of the Teacher Education Program and Principal Leadership Institute at GSE&IS, (’02, B.A.; M.Ed., ’08) was a founding teacher at UCLA Community School. She is trilingual, speaking Korean, English, and Spanish, and has also taught in Spanish-English programs in the Los Angeles Unified School District. She described the vision of UCLA Community School faculty and administration in establishing dual-language learning programs in Korean-English and Spanish-English as “building on the cultural and linguistic knowledge of students, with the goal of having [them] be bilingual, bi-literate, and multicultural.”
Kim said that UCLA Community School regards dual-language learning as “our part in breaking down language barriers and cultural misunderstandings.” She emphasized the innovative approach to dual-language learning that the school’s teachers have developed since the Korean-English program began in 2009 for kindergarten and first grade students. Today, the program is offered for a full K-5 cohort, with resources that are appropriate for both native and non-native speakers of Korean.
“We truly see the future of our community in our classrooms, where students from various backgrounds choose to learn two languages and embrace multicultural opportunities,” said Kim. “Imagine with me the graduates of the UCLA Community School – a public school – who have the ability to work alongside people from different backgrounds and also have a deep respect for themselves and where they come from.”
Ee discussed her dissertation research on the parents of children in Korean-English programs in nine schools in LAUSD and Glendale Unified School District, including the program at UCLA Community School. Her data included the quick assimilation of immigrant children to the mainstream culture and language and its effect on family; differences between bilingual and dual-language education; and the personal and societal benefits of learning to achieve and maintain bilingualism.
Ee stated that while parents of Korean descent choose to place their children in dual-language learning as a way to preserve their heritage language and culture, parents from non-Korean backgrounds aspire to providing the children with the benefits of learning a second language and the ability to understand cultures other than their own. She said that the surprising number of non-Korean children in dual-language programs enhances the experience for both native speakers and non-native speakers of the language.
“First, in order to maintain an ideal setting for dual-language instruction, the body of students from a target language and English should be equal,” Ee said. “Therefore, having a balanced number of students from Korean and non-Korean families would allow students to develop their language proficiency in both Korean and English in the most effective manner.
“Secondly, bringing non-Korean parents’ views on diversity into dual-language programs matters. The most notable fact about non-Korean parents in dual-language programs is that they perceive diversity as assets rather than barriers in society. Of course, their reasons for choosing the program might vary from community to community or from school to school, but what they would agree [upon] is that dual-language programs value the culture and languages of language-minority children, which used to be ignored or underestimated in society. Given the increasing diversity across the nation and around the world, our perspectives on diversity need to change in a more interactive way. Simply acknowledging the differences between [people] is not sufficient. Furthermore, for some immigrant non-Korean parents, they recognize the significance of being proficient in two or more languages and cultures in order to achieve a better job, more knowledge, and more opportunities in society.”
Ee’s pilot study, which she conducted at UCLA Community School, revealed that the expectations of Korean and non-Korean parents varied, especially in terms of their children’s language proficiency. Korean parents – especially those who are native speakers – expected advanced language proficiency for their children, whereas non-Korean parents did not expect as high a level of proficiency. She said that Korean parents would supplement their children’s training with private academies or Saturday Korean schools.
“If schools understood parents’ specific expectations in regard to language development and proficiency, they would be able to provide appropriate instruction for those students by having more assistant teachers or volunteer parents for Korean instruction and by offering advanced after school programs in Korean,” Ee said.
“Non-Korean parents expressed difficulty in helping their children with their Korean homework and with finding additional [teaching] materials such as books, Youtube clips in Korean, etc. By understanding parents’ specific needs for their children’s Korean instruction, schools would be able to offer supplementary materials via school websites, which would lessen the burden of non-Korean parents in searching for materials in Korean. In addition, public and school libraries would be able to offer more materials for both Korean and non-Korean parents interested in Korean instruction for their children.”
Ee cites dual-language learning as part of a solution to racial tensions in Los Angeles, and said that exposure to non-Koreans encourages Korean families to consider the value of integration in society.
“Despite efforts to make schools integrated, they have become more segregated than the past,” Ee noted. “Dual-language programs, however, have high potential for allowing children of different racial, linguistic, and cultural groups to interact. In that sense, non-Korean populations in Korean dual-language programs enhance the potential for integration, which is necessary especially for the Korean community that went through a heartbreaking history of racial conflict such as the 1992 L.A. riots.”
Ee said that her interest in the parents of children in dual-language programs stems from their making key decisions about their children’s education and the multiple factors that they consider, including a school’s test scores and the number of students that go on to college.
“We need to hear about parents’ voices in a collective and comprehensive way in order to understand their needs and expectations about dual-language programs,” she said. “I hope that my research will enhance the ability of schools to understand the needs and desires of parents, and to help schools to develop programs and materials that satisfy parents and children from different backgrounds. If several schools received similar requests from parents, they would be able to ask neighboring communities, unified school districts, or state departments of education to develop and provide resources for parents and children in dual-language programs.”
Suárez-Orozco, who is the co-director of the Institute for Immigrant Children, Youth, and Families at GSE&IS, is known for his research on conceptual and empirical problems in cultural psychology and psychological anthropology, with an emphasis on the study of mass migration, globalization, and education. At the May 14 luncheon, he delineated the unseen benefits of dual-language learning and its effects on learning and the human brain.
“Cognitive neuroscience is revolutionizing how we think about bilingualism and language competencies,” said Suárez-Orozco. “The ability to function in more than one language gives a profound advantage to the most fundamental functions of the human brain. The so-called executive function of the central nervous system – what fundamentally makes us human – is now, we are beginning to understand, different for people who can speak more than one language.”
Patricia Gándara, professor of education and co-director of the Civil Rights Project/ Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA, is Ee’s advisor in the Urban Schooling Division. A proponent of educational quality for underserved student populations, Gándara underscored the societal benefits of dual-language learning for a community as diverse as Los Angeles.
“At the Civil Rights Project, we see language not as a problem, but as an asset that immigrants bring to the United States,” Gándara said. “Dual-language programs represent such an opportunity for us at the Civil Rights Project. They bring children from different backgrounds together to learn from – and with – each other.
“We believe that diversity is strength, and if we can find ways to bring different racial, ethnic, and cultural groups together, we can learn to appreciate the unique contributions that each [group] makes to our society, as well as make the [the United States] a welcoming place for all immigrant groups.”
Above: Jongyeon “Joy” Ee, a doctoral student in GSE&IS’s Urban Schooling Division, presents her research on parents of children in Korean-English dual-language programs.
About Hanmi Financial Corporation
Established in 1982, Hanmi Bank was founded to serve the Korean-American Community. Since then, it has grown into one of the largest, premier Korean-American Banks in the United States. According to its president, Jay S. Yoo, “[Hanmi believes] in being a bank that gives happiness, a bank which makes contributions to the community, a bank that is loved, and a bank that is there for you. In other words, we will be the best bank, THE Bank of Choice.”
Headquartered in Los Angeles, Hanmi Bank, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hanmi Financial Corporation, provides services to the multi-ethnic communities of California, with 27 full-service offices in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Diego counties, and a loan production office in Washington State. Hanmi Bank specializes in commercial, SBA and trade finance lending, and is a recognized community leader. Hanmi Bank’s mission is to provide a full range of quality products and premier services to its customers and to maximize stockholder value. Additional information is available at www.hanmi.com.
About UCLA Community School
Located in Koreatown, UCLA Community School serves a high-density, low- income student population that is nearly 15 percent Korean or Korean American descent from the Koreatown and Pico-Union communities of Los Angeles. Located at the RFK Community Schools Complex on the former site of the Ambassador Hotel, the School opened its doors in 2009 to advance UCLA’s mission of teaching, research, and service to the wider Los Angeles community.
As one of the first pilot schools in Los Angeles, UCLA-CS’s mission is to shape students into self-directed, passionate learners, masters of academic content and skills, and critical, active participants in society. To help achieve these goals, the school provides a bi-literate, bi-lingual, and multicultural environment, where dual-language instruction supports learning in Spanish or Korean alongside English.