[LETTERS to the editor]Don’t leave; improve education at homeStatistics published recently reveal that currently 154,219 Korean students have gone abroad to study. Most students going away do so in order to have a better command of English, which is required in order to survive in the 21st century world. I agree with the necessity of English but have a different viewpoint on the issue of going abroad to study the language.
Are people leaving their native land for the “land of opportunity” for a better education? Some students have admitted that they chose to do so just to get away from the hassle of entering reputable colleges here, which makes the life of high school students particularly stressful. Many of the teenagers studying abroad do profit from the experience, but most actually end up unable to master the foreign language.
Since the mid-1990s, overseas study has been on the rise. More accurately: After the government fully liberalized travel in and out of the country, there was an exodus of young people leaving for English-speaking countries. Most of these students are the children of prosperous businessmen, politicians or professors who hold high social status in Korean society. A majority of parents insist that they want their kids to be bilingual in Korean and English to make it easy for them to find high-paying jobs. This whole idea of going abroad defeats the supposed egalitarian system where everyone has a chance to compete in Korean society.
In a recent article, five of every eight professors from a noted university in Seoul said they sent their wives and kids abroad not only for English study but also due to our ineffective education system; they leave mainly because Korea’s education is surrounded by controversy not only in the school environment but also in runaway tuition fees for after-school academies. Evidently, parents do things they deem best for their children and then start disapproving of the system of education that does nothing for students, comparing it with expensive private after-school tuition. Korean education has long been impugned for causing a lot of psychological stress on children. For this reason, education policy has actually turned to after-school instruction for those who seem to be weak in some areas. However, students have crammed their schedules with private lessons for every subject.
Koreans ought to throw away the mentality that international is better than domestic. A narrow-minded focus on personal advantage leads to loss of faith in the public school system and in each other that may never improve the overall system. I read recently that more than 90 percent of the Korean population is literate, which is considered one of the highest rates among economically advanced countries. Korean students are devoted to their academic studies and possess a high intellect.
There is no guarantee that foreign education will kindle one’s life, or inspire one by mastering English. Students should face reality at home and try their best where they are. To stop inappropriate overseas study, the government should promulgate a law to allow only students with latent ability to go abroad as an invisible form of national investment. This is one way for Korea to strengthen its international power. Instead of sitting around lamenting that things will never change, Korean parents and students should act to achieve a better educational system.
by Shim Sung-hoon
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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