South Korean Teacher Yun Jeong-Hyun Makes Final Ten For Us $1 Million Global Teacher Prize 2020

02 Sep 2020 |

In a moving tribute, Stephen Fry announces Yun Jeong-hyun as a top ten finalist

South Korean teacher Yun Jeong-hyun has been named a top 10 finalist for the Global Teacher Prize 2020, in partnership with UNESCO. Now in its sixth year, the US$1 million award is the largest prize of its kind.

In a special video message announcing Yun Jeong-hyun as a top ten finalist, comedian, actor, writer and presenter Stephen Fry paid a moving tribute to Yun Jeong-hyun’s work. He said:

“Today I am delighted to announce that Yun Jeong-hyun from South Korea is a top ten finalist for the Global Teacher Prize 2020. As Director of the Automobile department of your high school you lend your students money so they can take the exams needed to boost their career prospects. Your grateful students only pay you back from the wage they receive in future work placements. You leave no stone unturned as you work until 10pm every night to give your students the extra tuition they need to pass their tests and make a success of their lives. Thank you Yun Jeong-hyun for everything that you do”.

Yun Jeong-hyun, who teaches at the Suncheon Technical High School, Jeollanam-do, South Korea, was shortlisted for the Global Teacher Prize 2020, after being selected from over 12,000 nominations and applications from over 140 countries around the world.

Yun Jeong-hyun has been a technical teacher for 28 years – 27 of which have been spent in farming and fishing villages. This is a challenging teaching environment, as students at high schools in these areas sometimes have poor basic education and a sense of defeat about their prospects, which results in a lack of motivation. Many students are from socially vulnerable and disadvantaged families on low incomes: their health may be poor and any special educational needs are often unrecognized. In order to contribute towards their families’ living and school expenses, many students are also working part-time jobs after school. Yun Jeong-hyun has dealt with these challenges in a number of productive ways that has earned him a reputation as a truly outstanding teacher.

As director of the automobile department at his high school, he has vastly expanded the range of vocational qualifications that students can take, with various courses on welding, automobile maintenance, construction, Computer Aided Design and 3D scanning within the regular school curriculum. Since many students struggle with time-consuming side jobs to pay for their living expenses and certification fees, Yun Jeong-hyun lends them money that is paid back from wages they receive in future work placements. He has created job clubs focusing on gaining licenses for agricultural machine maintenance, forklift and excavator use, and bulldozer and crane operation – as well as courses for PowerPoint, Excel and Photoshop.

His dedication sees the provision of after-school activities and courses every night until 10 pm, teaching a 14-hour day to give his students the access they need. In 2012, 31 out of 33 students participated in the after-school activities, and on average, they achieved 17 vocational certificates per person. Since 2014, over half of the 120 students at Jeongnamjin Industrial High School, where he taught previously, have also participated in volunteer work each year, and in the last decade, four of his students have also won talent awards from the Korean government (50 students are selected each year from 1.8 million high school students nationwide). As a result, Yun Jeong-hyun has been the recipient of the Hong Jo Geun-jung medal, the Education Minister’s Award, and the Health and Welfare Minister’s Award.

The remaining nine top ten finalists will be announced, one each week, in the run up to the Global Teacher Prize ceremony which will be virtual for the very first time in its history due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Global Teacher Prize is also delighted to announce that this year’s virtual ceremony, expected to take place on December 3rd 2020 where the overall winner will be announced, will be hosted by English comedian, actor, writer and presenter Stephen Fry from the Natural History Museum in London. The ceremony will also include a special recognition for one teacher – a COVID hero – who has gone above and beyond to keep young people learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With ten years to go to meet UN sustainable development goal 4 - providing a quality education for every child - the Global Teacher Prize has partnered with UNESCO to ensure teachers are right at the top of governments’ agendas.

Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director General for Education at UNESCO, said:

“Congratulations to Yun Jeong-hyun for being selected as a top ten finalist from such a huge number of talented and dedicated teachers. I hope his story will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and also highlight the incredible work teachers do all over South Korea and throughout the world every day.

“The Global Teacher Prize helps put the teacher voice at the heart of our mission to champion inclusive learning opportunities for children and young people all over the world, especially the most marginalised and disadvantaged, during this sudden and unprecedented disruption to global education.

“Since the coronavirus pandemic first emerged, we have seen 1.5 billion learners across the world impacted by school and university closures. But not all learners are being impacted equally. Governments must learn lessons and act decisively to ensure all children receive a quality education in the age of COVID and beyond”.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Global Teacher Prize, said:

“The Global Teacher Prize was set up to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society. By unearthing thousands of stories of heroes that have transformed young people’s lives, the prize hopes to bring to life the exceptional work of teachers all over the world.

“This year, more than ever, we have seen teachers go above and beyond to keep young people learning throughout the world. Teachers everywhere should be applauded for their creativity, compassion and resolve to fulfill every child’s right to a good education”.