Tailored Study Abroad Programs Boom

With thousands of South Koreans studying abroad each year at all levels of education, the market to arrange such overseas ventures is formidable and competitive. Some Korean agencies provide guardian-like services for younger children studying in countries like New Zealand and Australia, or even combination English and golf instruction for aspiring professional athletes. More attractive, perhaps, are businesses that arrange for students studying abroad to also keep current with Korean math and science curricula. "Aware of the slim possibility of establishing a career in the host countries afterwards," says this Korea Herald article, "some parents want to bring their kids back after completing their second year of middle school." – YaleGlobal

Tailored Study Abroad Programs Boom

Choe Yong-shik
Wednesday, December 17, 2003

In tandem with the exodus of Korean students studying abroad, local overseas education agencies have been inundated to saturation point, to the extent that they now have to offer a range of creative programs and services to stay ahead of the game.

Some agencies promise to act as guardians and academic supervisors for young children living alone on study abroad programs, while others even teach Korean subjects on the side to those students hoping to come back after a few years of overseas training.

Aware of the slim possibility of establishing a career in the host countries afterwards, some parents want to bring their kids back after completing their second year of middle school and return to Korea for their third year in time for the transition to high school.

"Returnee students can easily compete in subjects that require memory work, but Korean science and mathematics courses in Korea are much more advanced," Lee Suk-joon, a manager at Total Uhak (overseas education), said.

"Many of these students find making the transition back to Korea`s competitive academic environment difficult," Lee said, explaining they offer tutoring classes in New Zealand to keep pace with science and mathematics in Korean secondary schools.

According to Lee, Total Uhak has five to six Korean teachers on staff in New Zealand to tutor these students in core Korean courses to ensure a smoother adjustment process when they return to Korea.

In hopes of providing greater emotional stability to young students living away from their parents, another agency in Yeoksam-dong, southern Seoul, identifies study abroad programs by location so that students can attend schools in their neighborhood or ones shared by their siblings or relatives.

As some students have been known to have difficulty adjusting to their newfound independence abroad, agencies like this operate local branches staffed by Korean employees who serve as guardians or supervisors of their client students instead of their parents in Korea.

"Kids living alone in a foreign country are susceptible to peer pressure and other elements that could get them into trouble," said an official of the agency that has capitalized on the "wild goose" phenomenon whereby fathers live alone in Korea to support their kids and spouse studying abroad.

Another promising sector in the booming study abroad trend for Korean students combines English training and golf.

Elite Agency, located in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul, has received positive reviews from parents in the affluent Gangnam area for being able to introduce a program in Australia that offers both an intensive English language program and quality golf training for students aspiring to pursue the professional golf track.

Some overseas education agencies promise to offer more effective and practical language training programs as they market a winter vacation TOEIC program that aims at improving students` chances in Korea`s competitive job market.

"Overseas education agencies must offer specific and differentiated goals to stay one step ahead of the competition," Kang Min, managing director of Total Uhak, said.

ⓒ Copyright 2002 Digital Korea Herald.