Overseas Study Loses Its Luster

      May 23, 2011 07:25

      Has the great Korean experiment in early overseas education failed? An increasing number of students who left the country at a young age are returning home to continue their university studies here because they find it difficult to get jobs there. At the same time, the number of secondary schoolchildren going abroad is also declining.

      ◆ Returning Students

      Kim Young Academy, a private crammer that prepares students for transfer between universities, saw enrollment by foreign-educated students jump from 134 in 2007 to 215 last year, and until April this year 70 had signed up.

      Another institute, WithU Academy, had about 60 foreign-educated students in 2010 and this year. Chung Nam-soon of the institute said, "Because many foreign-educated students seek to continue their studies at home, universities here are checking meticulously through foreign embassies whether the universities they attended there are accredited institutions."

      Students are required to take exams in English and their individual major to change universities, and foreign-educated students have an advantage because the English-language part of the exam often determines success or failure.

      At one private university in Seoul, seven overseas-trained applicants were accepted in 2009, but the figure increased to 19 this year.

      The biggest reason many students want to come home is to have a better chance of settling down with a job. With the number of students going abroad to study on the increase, overseas degrees are no longer passports to success, and many believe it is easier to establish personal connections and find jobs if they study in Korea.

      A personnel manager with a large conglomerate said, "Many conglomerates set aptitude tests to find out if applicants meet their requirements, and they tend to be disadvantageous for foreign-educated students who aren't familiar with the Korean organization culture. Korean companies no longer pay much attention to graduates of foreign universities other than top-notch universities like Ivy League schools."

      ◆ Better Chances

      The zeal for early overseas education is also diminishing. The number of young schoolchildren going abroad to study rose in the early 2000s but has been on the decline since peaking in 2006.

      Many students expected that their early overseas education would help them find jobs abroad, but the reality was different. It is never easy to compete with native speakers in the job market, while many foreign companies with branches in Korea prefer graduates of Korean universities because they are more familiar with Korean customs and culture.

      Even if they succeed in transferring to domestic universities, not all foreign-educated students find jobs here, and many become discouraged after several failed attempts.

      The advantage of early overseas study is that students can learn foreign languages more easily and experience foreign culture. And although there are many success stories, increasing numbers of people are wondering whether it is worth the sacrifice.

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