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More Korean International School Woes

Posted July. 31, 2006 15:38,   


Mr. A, a foreign executive of the Korean branch of a U.S. auto parts company, is planning to ask its U.S. head office to transfer him to another country. The reason is his children’s education. He said, “No one who has child of school-age would want to work in Korea. I don’t want to ruin my child’s future with poor educational environment.

Mr. B, the head of Korean branch of a British apparel company, decided to send his daughter to a boarding school in Britain. He said, “Three families among my friends are leaving Korea because of educational concerns.”

Complaints from foreigners residing in Korea have heightened. That has had a negative influence on foreign direct investment in Korea.

A recent survey and interviews conducted by this newspaper on 74 foreign CEOs and executives who work at foreign companies in Korea and whose children go to school in Korea found that 65% of respondents have problems with educational environment for foreigners in Korea. 27% of the respondents said they may have second thoughts about investing in Korea because of its poor educational offerings.

Respondents from 18 nations, including 26 Americans, 13 British, and 12 Germans, were polled. Most of them can have influence on decision-making regarding investment in Korea.

Such an educational environment may make foreign businessmen leave Korea-

The vast majority of foreign executives in Korea want to leave Korea due to concerns over their children’s education, and some have difficulties such as the shortage of human resources because of employees not wanting to work in Korea. In fact, chairmen of 12 foreign chambers of commerce, including the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CCCK) in Korea) and the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea (EUCCK) sent letters to the Ministry of Finance and Economy and other government agencies. The letters say employees are reluctant to go to Korea because they don’t find good schools for their children and such a situation causes disruptions on major investment projects.

One CEO of a multinational company said, “I would tell a foreign businessman willing to invest in Korea the reality of Korea’s education. It will not be a positive story, I’m afraid.”

Too many Korean students in international schools-

More than half of them are opposed to the Korean government’s plan to relax restrictions on Korean nationals’ admission to international schools. One American executive said, “International schools were built to attract foreign investment. If you need a school for Korean people living abroad for a long time, you should build a separate school just for them.”

The American Chamber of Commerce in Korea (AMCHAM) issued a statement saying last year, “Too many Koreans go to international schools. They speak Korean, not English outside of class. Those schools are virtually ESL institutes for Korean students, not schools for international students.”

One of the international school faculty members in Seoul said, “Sometimes, conflicts arise between Korean parents and foreign parents.” The head of the Korean office of Korn/Ferry International, an international headhunter, Jonathan Holmes, said, “Korea’s educational environment for foreign residents lags compared with its Asian competitors. Improved education infrastructure for foreigners is desperately needed for the country to become an economic hub in Asia.”

Education opportunities are not enough-

Another complaint of foreigners is that most international schools in Korea have the American educational system, thus reducing educational options for their children. The International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma is needed for one to apply for Universities in Europe and elsewhere except in the U.S. A survey result shows that 53% of the respondents prefer IB courses but hardly any school in Korea provides IB courses.

Headmaster of the Early Childhood Learning Center in Seoul, Julia Burks who has experience running international schools in South America, Europe and Southeast Asia said, “Educational continuity is essential for those who stay for a while. That is why you need a diverse school system.