Jeong-hyun Yun

Suncheon Technical High School, Jeollanam-do, South Korea

Jeong-hyun 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, a sense of defeat about their prospects, and a resultant lack of motivation. Many 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.

Jeong-hyun has dealt with these challenges in a number of productive ways. As the director of the automobile department at Jeong Nam Jin Industrial High School, he has vastly expanded the range of vocational qualifications that students can take, teaching 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, Jeong-hyun lends them money that is then paid back from the wage they receive in their future work placements. He has also created a variety of job clubs centred 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.

Jeong-hyun is exceptionally dedicated, providing after-school activities and courses every night until 10 pm and 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 Jeong Nam Jin Industrial High School 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, 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.

If awarded the Global Teacher Prize, Jeong-hyun would use the funds to supplement the local children’s centre with computers, as well as supporting other after-school activities in other regional farming and fishing villages. He would also like to create a fund for students who face financial difficulty in preparing for their futures, to ensure that money is not an obstacle for students wishing to acquire education and skills.

Watch Stephen Fry announce Yun Jeong-hyun as the first Top 10 Finalist for Global Teacher Prize 2020