Korean Students Struggle at Ivy League Colleges

      October 12, 2009 12:18

      The number of Korean students at Ivy League universities is on the rise, but little more than half complete their courses. According to figures from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, around 110,000 Korean students were studying in the U.S. as of this year, the largest group of foreign nationals for the fourth year running.

      Korean-American academic Samuel Kim, a doctoral candidate at Columbia University's Teachers College, reviewed data of 1,400 Korean students at 14 top universities such as Harvard, Yale and Cornell between 1985 and 2007 for his doctoral dissertation and found that only 784 or 56 percent graduated while the rest dropped out.

      Kim said the main reasons for the high dropout rate were lack of preparation and proficiency in English, and wrong choice of major and university. By lack of preparation, Kim means inability to cope with independence after the coddled upbringing and constant parental supervision typical of Korea's affluent children.

      Despite getting the high required scores on standardized multiple-choice English tests, students often realize that their actual language skills are insufficient to follow lectures and take part in discussions.

      Many students are also ill-informed about their chosen academic fields or universities, which can harm students' sense of identity and deepen insecurity and fears about the future. Jeon Seong-soo, a professor of early childhood education at Bucheon College, said, "The abilities of 'mama's boys' or 'teacher's pets' are only valid until the moment they enter university" because such passive students cannot continue in their ways at university or graduate schools, where independent study habits are valued. "Students who studied against their will because of pressure from parents lack a strong motivation, so they tend to have harder time finding meaning in study," he said. "When they are suddenly given their freedom, they struggle to find new ways of studying, and unfortunately not all are successful."

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