Korean students fleeing abroad
Trend boosts prep industry aimed at overseas colleges
Hong Seung-gi, 18, is a senior at Hyundai High School in Apgujeong-dong in southern Seoul. He just received an acceptance letter from Penn State University in America. "In the Gangnam area," Mr. Hong said, "many students are preparing to go to universities abroad. We really are sick of the college admission system in Korea."
Study-abroad fever is sweeping Korean high schools -- especially those focused on foreign language study.
Daewon Foreign Language High School in Seoul is looking for an instructor to teach special classes for students who hope to study at foreign universities. Of the 420 incoming freshmen for the next academic year, 80 have already told the school that they will join the "study abroad classes." The school is planning to hire up to three new teachers. "As of now, we have four teachers, some of whom are Korean-Americans, for the study abroad classes," a Daewon spokesman said. "We need more."
Anyang Foreign Language High School in Anyang, Gyeonggi province, said it would open classes next year exclusively for students who hope to study abroad.
"A school exclusively aimed at training students who will study abroad will open in Yongin in 2005," said an official at the Gyeonggi province education office. "That provoked competition in this field among many high schools."
Students said they dream of studying abroad because the domestic education system is too cut-and-dried, focusing too heavily on test scores.
Instead of studying for the College Scholastic Ability Test, students hoping to study abroad prepare for another standardized test, the SAT, which is widely used in admission to U.S. colleges. The trend began a couple of years ago at foreign language high schools and is spreading.
"In the past, mostly foreign language school students took the classes," said Lee In-jo, the director of Kaplan, a private institute in Seoul that offers SAT prep courses. "For this term, 35 percent of our SAT prep students are from regular high schools."
The number of students here taking the SAT grew from 551 in 1997 to 1,375 last year. Private institutes providing prep courses have sprung up to meet the demand; more than 30 are now operating in southern Seoul.