Korean Students Strain Foreign-School Policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Mar 1 15:47:40 UTC 2008

Korean Students Strain Foreign-School Policy

By Kang Shin-who
Staff Reporter

The government has worked to set up more international schools to
attract greater foreign investment, however, Korean students are
posing a dilemma for this policy. Under the current Education Law,
Korean students wishing to attend an international school are required
to provide a document proving a minimum of five years residency
overseas. With the inception of the new government, education
authorities are considering revising the law. ``We have discussed
easing the rule over the last five years but we have not reached a
conclusion yet. I expect the new government will decide on it,'' said
Sung Sam-je, an official from the Ministry of Education and Human
Resources. There are 51 international schools in Korea, with a total
of 10,168 students enrolled in them as of September 2007. Among them,
1,426 or 14 percent are Korean nationals, according to the ministry,

Many Korean parents have pushed the government to ease the regulation
so that their children can be enrolled at international schools mainly
for English education.  However, another ministry official, Lee
Ji-seon hinted that there is also the possibility of raising the
required overseas residency period. ``Some top-tier international
schools with a long waiting list don't admit Korean students. Also,
some European countries that have strong public education systems
don't allow their own nationals to enroll at international schools in
their countries,'' she said. While some international schools that
need more students support easing the restriction, others don't want
more Korean students as many foreign parents don't want to send their
children to those schools.

``In general, if the requirement for international school admission
changes from the current five years to more additional years,
enrollment would decline,'' said the foreign admissions officer at
Seoul Foreign School, the largest international school in Korea. The
school only accepts foreign passport holders. Some experts say that
the government needs to allow more Korean students into the
international schools. ``We should not forget that the
English-language schools will remain prohibitively expensive for the
vast majority. Korea has fared well in providing equality in access to
education, and this approach should be preserved. So, foreign schools
should be made more accessible for Koreans who are willing to send
their children there, but normal schools should not be neglected,''
said Prof. Andrei Lankov of Kookmin University.

Some experts say the government should leave the door open to Korean
students and introduce a priority system for admission.
``Any restrictions against Koreans in enrollment will seem arbitrary
and unfair, but there needs to be restrictions of some sort to prevent
a mass exodus of foreigners and of Koreans returning from abroad whose
children cannot find schools here,'' said Michael Breen the president
of Insight Communications Consultants. ``Perhaps there should be a
priority system with foreign passport holders getting top priority,
dual Korean-foreign passport holders second, then Koreans with over
five years abroad, four years, three, two, one, and finally all other
Koreans. For these last, presumably there would need to be a lottery
system,'' he added.

kswho at koreatimes.co.kr


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