Learning With: ‘Running Out of Children, a South Korea School Enrolls Illiterate Grandmothers’

Learning With: ‘Running Out of Children, a South Korea School Enrolls Illiterate Grandmothers’

Before reading the article:

Would you want to go to school with your grandparents?

How might that change your school experience? What might you be able to learn from them and their peers? What might they learn from your generation?

Now, read the article, “Running Out of Children, a South Korea School Enrolls Illiterate Grandmothers,” and answer the following questions:

1. The article starts with the story of a yellow school bus ride. What is surprising about Hwang Wol-geum’s daily ride?

2. Why was Ms. Hwang not able to attend school as a child?

3. Why is there a child shortage in rural areas of South Korea? Why does the future of Gangjin County depend on enrolling students in its elementary school, according to the article?

4. What was Ms. Hwang’s first day of school like? What has been the grandmothers’ experience of school?

5. What has been the reaction of teachers and other students to the presence of grandmothers who are now attending the school? How are classrooms arranged differently to support the learning of older adult students?

6. How did illiteracy affect Ms. Hwang and the other grandmothers throughout their lives? What hardships — emotional, social and economic — did they face?

7. What are some of the things the grandmothers hope to do, now that they are finally learning to read and write? Which of these lifelong dreams do you find most memorable or touching?

Finally, tell us more about what you think:

— What is your reaction to the story of grandmothers attending elementary school? What can we learn from their experience? Which aspect of their story did you find most fascinating or inspiring?

— Would you want to attend school with these elderly learners? Why or why not? How do you think you might benefit from their presence? How do you think their lives might be positively affected?

— Look through the photos and videos featured in the article. Select one and write about how it illustrates the value of lifelong or intergenerational learning.

— Should all schools have an intergenerational component? What ways can your school more meaningfully bring elders into the educational experience? (You can research some different ideas and programs here, here and here.)

Further Resources:

Fostering Connections Between Young and Old

New Women’s Groups Focus on Generational Mix

The Growing Generational Divide