[EDITORIALS]Opening the education marketBy 2008, a group of prestigious private schools from the eastern United States are expected to establish a school with a capacity of 2,000 students in an Incheon special economic zone. The decision marks the long-awaited opening of Korea’s education industry. Foreign schools had been reluctant to enter the market because of a regulation that limited the transfer of profits to the school’s home country. But with a revision making such transfers possible, foreign schools are expected to actively enter the market.
If one looks at the cases overseas, Singapore and Thailand have long since embraced distinguished foreign education institutes. With excellent facilities and a high education level, they have stimulated schools in their host country and created a system of competition for quality education. The opening of the education market is a worldwide trend, and with the World Trade Organization also aiming to open the market, it is not something that can be avoided.
In the first quarter alone, a total of 646 billion won ($552 million) was spent on studying abroad. This marks an increase of 34 percent from last year and is 1.9 times the total of two years ago. This indicates that despite the unfavorable economy and the burden that households have encountered as a result, more money is being spent to study overseas than in the past.
When the foreign schools open and Korean students begin entering them, the excessive amount transferred overseas can be expected to drop significantly.
Groups that have strongly opposed opening the education industry to foreign institutes, including the Korea Teachers and Educational Workers Union, various parents’ groups and private schools, must now change their attitudes.
The establishment of foreign schools can be a stimulus to the public school system, one that both students and parents have lost hope in, and can help stop the exodus of students overseas, which averages 130,000 people annually.
Considering the unusual zeal for education that Koreans possess, it is possible that overheated competition might arise for entry to the foreign schools. The government must come up with a solution that will guarantee transparency of Korean students’ admission to the foreign schools.