중앙데일리

International school reforms

Government aims to create a ‘workable’ environment for expats

May 14,2009
Overly excessive regulations are often cited as the key impediment to attracting foreign investment to Korea. Overseas investors as well as local business leaders suggest that the government should ease education, among other industries. Deregulation of these industries could lead to an influx of more investors and expatriates.

David Edwards, chief executive of SC First Bank, said in a meeting with President Lee Myung-bak last year that the shortage of international schools in Korea makes it harder for foreigners to bring their families here. “You need to set up more international schools to create a more ‘workable’ environment for expatriates,” he said.

And the business-friendly Lee administration seems to be listening.

Last Friday the Finance Ministry unveiled a slew of regulatory reforms on international schools and foreign educational institutions, as part of its plan to boost the nation’s service sector.

One notable change will be raising the admission quota for domestic students at those schools.

The ministry said the ratio of domestic students admitted to international schools will be increased from the current 30 percent of the total number of foreign students to 30 percent of total student spots. This means, for example, that a school with 1,000 students can increase their quota of Korean nationals from the current 230 to 300 following the revision.

In addition, domestic student enrollment will no longer be dependent on the pool of foreign students.

The easing of this quota is seen as an important step in paving the way for Songdo International School, inside the Songdo free economic zone in Incheon, to launch its elementary school in September.

Until recently, the prospect of its opening was bleak due to the forecast that a much lower than expected number of foreign students would register.

According to a spokesman for Gale International Korea, a developer responsible for the Incheon Business District, the school plans to submit its application for final approval to launch tomorrow.

“The recent government measure to lift restrictions on international schools has definitely raised the chances for us to meet the September deadline,” he said.

Gale has a 70 percent stake in the Incheon Business District development venture, NSIC, with the remaining portion taken by Posco.

Yesterday Gale appointed Jorge Nelson as head of the school, and announced that Vancouver International Primary and Secondary School, a non-profit educational institution, would be its new management partner,

The English-language school will accommodate up to 2,100 students from kindergarten through high school.

Some other British and Canadian educational enterprises are getting ready to advance into Korea and may get a boost from the approval of Songdo.

The Education Ministry is also looking at the positive effects that an increase in the number of international schools will have on the entire country.

“Competition against more advanced foreign educational institutions will motivate their domestic counterparts to raise their quality,” said Jung Il-yong, an Education Ministry official. “Demand for study abroad programs among domestic students could be absorbed by those foreign schools.”

Besides the quota-raising plan, the government will also ease tax and accounting laws so foreign educational institutions can send income back home and apply the accounting practices of their home countries.

Until now, Korea has banned such practices, which are widely implemented in countries such as Japan, Singapore, Dubai and Qatar.




By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]




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