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Too Many International Schools?

Some people seem to think that Seoul has too many international schools:

But critics complain the metropolitan area is already overcrowded with schools with classes run in English or other languages, and what foreign investors need is not easier access to mediocre education, but high quality courses at more affordable rates.

“I don’t think that Seoul has a shortage of international schools,” an expat who has lived here for three years with two school-age children said.

“But it should be noted that many are struggling to invite suitably qualified teachers like those that are available back home.”

The American, who refused to be named, added some small- and mid-sized schools are rudimentary in their campus environment.

Seoul City doesn’t think so, though:

A Seoul official admitted the concern that the city is overcrowded with such schools, but stressed it was not negative in the long run.

“At the moment, people may see it as overcrowded. But it’s sort of a rite of passage to become more attractive to foreign investors,” said Jang Young-min, deputy director of the city’s competitiveness policy division.

“As proven by surveys, foreign investors see the capital as a lucrative market but the lack of facilities to educate their children is making them reluctant to make forays into Seoul. It’s an investment for a bigger return.”

As I’ve said before, I don’t think the issue of international schools will ever be financially relevant to me, but I’m still curious:

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  • http://eflgeek.com EFL Geek

    One of the reasons I’m planning on leaving Korea next summer is because international schools are too expensive. Unless you work for a company on an expat package and have your childrens school fees subsidized it’s out of reach.

    I teach at a university in Seoul and my wife has a good job where she makes much more than I do, yet we cannot afford to send out kids to a foreign school. If we had only one kid then it would be just barely affordable, with 2 it’s impossible.

    As it stands my daughter is in public school and doing fine, but we’re not interested in her continuing with public school here much past grade 3 or 4 and that is when we’re leaving.

  • jonnyh

    I’m not planning on leaving (yet), but I can relate. My kids are pretty young yet, but it’s a quandary for us too. Schools here are pretty scary beyond the first few years with the prison-like environment, disinterest in teaching anything beyond lists of facts and answers to tests, and verbal and physical abuse by teachers. We’re hoping to find an acceptable option that we can afford in the next few years. We shall see.

  • seouldout

    You can be pretty sure the gov’t wasn’t thinking about you two.

    Betcha your taxes support these places.

    Seoul has a shortage of affordable international food and liquor.

  • R. Elgin

    Out in Gwanak-gu, Gwanak-gu has built a new “English village” and today I saw the prices and there is no way that the average Korean could afford to use this place. Gwanak hired a religion-affiliated hagwon to run the place and now it is just another expensive hagwon that the taxpayers paid for but can not afford to use!

    LMB should tear these guys apart if he is serious about reforming education and the toll it is taking on the middle-class household debt.

  • yuna

    This comment belongs here.

  • http://www.bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    You know, I’d like to meet EFLGeek to discuss means for him to be able to afford international school.

    With respect to whether tax money goes to support international schools for rich expatriates and local elites, the answer is it really doesn’t. The government’s assistance is limited to release of otherwise dead land held by the government.

  • alexander

    There are not many international schools in Seoul.
    The best schools (KIS and SIS) are very, very expensive and almost totally populated by Korean-Americans or Koreans who have acquired foreign passports. They are great schools but not very “international.”

    Most international schools are Evangelical Christian schools with very nice facilities but also very expensive and not accommodating to non-Protestants or even mild-Christians.

    There are a few other small or new international schools including mine which have students from 15-20 countries, good teachers, but not exceptional facilities. They would still be too expensive for the average expat or foreigner but the tuition is much less then the big schools.

    And of course there are the non-English international schools which I do not know much about.

    Overall, only the richest expats can afford to pay for international schools and usually their company or government (if they are embassy workers) pay for all or most of the tuition.

    My current school, RIS has only started getting Korean students last year. Some went to school in a foreign country before, but some have only lived in the USA for the first few days of their lives.

    I think international schools in any country should have some natives in the student body, but they should not be schools for the elite or the heavily-indebted locals. Most parents (Korean or expat) do not want their children in Korea’s public schools and it is the governments job to reform them.

  • seouldout

    The government’s assistance is limited to release of otherwise dead land held by the government.

    Couldn’t the gov’t sell off such land to the developers? No reason for the poor, the middle class, the w/o-foreign-passport Koreans, the infertile, and the hostesses to allow the gov’t to relinquish a tidy windfall.

  • Big

    Alexander,

    “The best schools (KIS and SIS)..”? What about SFS? I always thought SFS was the best, and unlike other foreign schools that are foreign only on paper, SFS boasts more expats than Koreans or Korean-Americans.

  • dokdoforever

    I’m not an international investor – I work in education. So for me, like EFL Geek and others, the issue is cost. Seoul Foreign School charges 22 million won per year for elementary school. The local private school here in Illinois charges $4,400 per year. If you have two kids in international schools in Seoul, and work in education, even with a PhD, you would need to somehow get a second job, or live in your office, if you wanted to survive.

    Outside SFS, most of the student bodies of these ‘international schools’ do appear to be kids of wealthy Koreans.

    It’s what forced me out of the country.

  • alexander

    Big,
    Good question. I was just at SFS a few weeks ago for a conference and the facilities are top-notch. From the photos on the wall, it seems genuinely international.
    But I my only personal drawback is that it is a Christian school and I do not think a child’s education should be built around just one religion. This is great for many people, but is a drawback for many other expats. Also, how can a true international school exclude the majority of families in the world?

    I know that modern education in Korea was spearheaded by Christian missionaries over 100 years ago. They did a great service to the country. Now someone needs to build a network of secular and affordable international schools in Korea for the growing number for non-Korean children. And yes, since expats pay taxes, then they should be partially funded by taxes.

  • 8675309

    yuna, #5:

    North London girls were the best when I was still at school.

    Best? Best at what? This is such a weird expression that I’ve heard only in Korea — e.g., I once heard a Korean newspaper touting that Korean girls born between 1979-1980 are the best, because human resource “experts” view them as the smartest, most clever, most fashionable, most educated, most worldly, and most desired by large corporations and potential mates among all previous generations of Korean women. Regardless, such absolute standards and attempts to commodify or objectify people by gender and age is just plain weird and defies the common sense notion embraced by the rest of the non-Korean world that “there are many standards of excellence.”

    alexander, #11:

    Now someone needs to build a network of secular and affordable international schools in Korea for the growing number for non-Korean children. And yes, since expats pay taxes, then they should be partially funded by taxes.

    Your argument that SIS and KIS aren’t “international” enough for you belies the fact that the concept of an international education as it was originally intended, has little to do with skin color or national origin and more to do with state of mind and the elimination of bigotry and racism.

    If you accept that, then how many Korean or non-Koreans are enrolled in an international school shouldn’t be an issue for you — unless you are a total racial bigot.

    That being said, there are too many expats in Korea who want to have their cake and eat it too.

    For starters, not only do expats in Korea enjoy one of the ridiculously lowest income tax rates in the industrialized world (something like 3.3% of gross income — unheard of in an industrialized country), they want the Korean government to cater — or shall I say pander — to their ever-growing wants and needs to include:
    1) the ability to reproduce offspring rather cheaply (Korean National Health Insurance can’t be beat anywhere else in the world when it comes to delivering in Korea);
    2) to have access to cheap and foreigner friendly housing, food, & entertainment;
    3) to enjoy the creation of all-foreigner enclaves;
    4) and to pay as little tax as possible, while demanding the world from said government, etc.,

    …which brings us to now…

    5) White expats now want the K-gov to pay for a ‘whites-only’ or at least a Korean-restricted, secular-based college-prep education payed for by the sweat, blood and tears of hard-working Koreans whose average annual income is a mere fraction of yours?

    Keep on dreaming!

  • http://eflgeek.com EFL Geek

    Brendon,

    I’ve sent you a message via another web site we both use since your site appears to be down and I don’t know your email address.

  • moondog213

    As a relatively new international educator it seems to be that there is a level of status and desirability bestowed upon schools that teach foreign students. Recruiting sites (and school websites) will post their school’s demographics. The schools that teach foreign kids seem to pay better as well, but not always. These are just casual observations, but I there seems to definitely be a two-tiered system at work.

    Also, SFS seems to be having a hard time getting teachers. I suppose now that the missionaries have to be licensed teachers they are running into problems.

  • itinerant physicist

    Was looking to see if there were any more scandalous developments regarding international schools in Korea and came across this. (2 years late to the party but nevermind..)

    It’s amusing to see history repeating itself. From the article linked to in the original post:

    “The city’s expansion plan is partially based on an annual survey on foreign investors here by the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA).
    One of the chronic complaints raised was the shortage of appropriate schools.”

    “[...] it’s sort of a rite of passage to become more attractive to foreign investors,” said Jang Young-min, deputy director of the city’s competitiveness policy division.
    “As proven by surveys, foreign investors see the capital as a lucrative market but the lack of facilities to educate their children is making them reluctant to make forays into Seoul. It’s an investment for a bigger return.”

    This is exactly the same reason that was given back in the mid 2000s for building a new high-quality foreign school to supplement SFS. The school was built and opened its doors under the name YISS in 2006. Let’s remind ourselves how that turned out…

    First there was the brouhaha about the selection process for the operator of the new school. Towards the end of that, a situation was orchestrated by those responsible for running the show – the Korean authorities and their AmCham quisling – to open the door of the school to kids of the local elites while keeping it shut for foreigners who were not in the know. They did this by not introducing any application procedure for the school but instead privately informing their favoured insiders – the local Korean elites – that the selected operator would be ICS, so that the insiders knew to quickly add their kids to the waitlist of that school in order to gain admittance to YISS. By the time the choice of ICS was made public the insiders had already filled the waitlist, thus the goal of admitting them while excluding the foreigners (who the new school was purportedly build for) was achieved.

    That was the first indication of a fact that became clear soon afterwards (and which I’ll give proof of further below): Despite what was claimed, the purpose of the new foreign school was not really to meet the need for more appropriate school places for the foreigners. Instead, its real purpose was to meet another pressing need, one that wasn’t admitted or discussed openly for obvious reasons: The need for more high-quality and genuinely international school places for the kids of the local elites. Previously the only genuinely international school was SFS. And the enrollment rules of SFS regarding foreigness are actually quite strict, much more so that the other “international” schools there. It’s not enough to have US citizenship through being born in USA, or to buy an Ecuadorian passport. So the kids of most of the local elites were excluded from SFS and there was nothing they could do about it. The other international schools, with the partial exception of ICS, were all glorified hagwons to some extent (some more than others) with most, sometimes almost all, of their students being culturally Korean. Many of them can barely speak English at all when they start at those schools.

    At this point let’s consider why getting their kids into an international school is so important for many of the Korean elites. There’s a myth that they want their kids to escape the “horrors” of the Korean education system. This is false. Not only do the vast majority of them embrace the mentality of the local education system, they pressure the international schools that their kids attend to recreate that system there! (I’m speaking from first-hand experience after my daughter attended one of these schools.) To be more precise, they want their own kids to study like maniacs for 20 hours each day so as to get into the best universty they possibly can, but they would prefer if all the other parents had a more relaxed attitude to education so that the other kids worked less hard, meaning less competition for their own kid. :)

    The real problem the local elites have with the Korean education system is this: Of course they want their kids to grow up to be elites just like them, and a necessary condition for that to happen within the Korean system is that the kid must get admitted to SNU for university. If they go to any other Korean university they will later be regarded as 2nd class on the jobmarket. So each year we have more than one million kids studying like maniacs to try to score one of the less than 10,000 places per year at SNU. Calculate the odds…
    International schooling followed by university education abroad (usually in USA) is a path for avoiding the risk that the kid doesn’t manage to get into SNU. If the kid is academically good he can go to one of the super-hagwon international schools like SIS whose graduates regularly get admitted to top universities in USA. That would be an even better outcome than graduating from SNU. But if the kid turns out to be less academically stellar he/she will still be able to get into some average university in USA after international school, and that will still be enough for him/her to be “special” on the Korean job market afterwards. (E.g. the English skills will count for a lot in a country where most people speak very little English.) Most importantly, by going down the international school route the student avoids the future risk of being someone who tried but failed to get into SNU.

    The preceding explains the desire the Korean elites have for their kids to go to international schools. But still not explained is why they strongly want them to go “genuine” international schools like SFS rather than just being satisfied with the glorified hagwons. Well I’m sure a super-hagwon like SIS will be considered fine by them if it gets their kid into Harvard. But most of them are probably realistic enough to know there’s little chance of that unless their kid is really good at academics. So there are other factors… Snobbery and “face” are a significant factor – they want to be able to say their kid goes to a top international school with real foreign kids, rather than one of the “lesser” ones that the foreigners generally regard as not good enough for them. Then there’s the higher education standards with better teachers etc, and better school reputation, which will help them get into a better US university in future. Another significant factor is that their kids will learn English better, and be better prepared for US university if they are at a school with a significant number of real foreign students. Its like they are getting free English hagwon lessons from the foreign kids, but in a more authentic environment than the hagwon classroom.

    Now let’s get back to the story of YISS, so that we can know what to expect now that history is repeating… Recall that the purported reason for building this school (with govt funds, on what was previously a large slice of state-owned land in central Seoul) was to make S. Korea more attractive for foreign investment by alleviating the shortage of “appropriate” international school places for kids of expat employees of foreign companies that set up in Seoul. Specifically, the goal according to the Korean authorities was to build a genuine international school of the same standard as SFS that would be considered an acceptable alternative to SFS by the expat employees of the foreign companies, since SFS was already mostly filled up and had waiting lists. The new school was built to accomodate 1000 students, so in principle there would be plenty of places to meet the demand. It opened 6 years ago in 2006.
    So how has it worked out? Has it achieved its purpose? Well, the article linked to in the original post implies that the answer is a resounding `no’. According to the article, lack of “appropriate” school places for kids of expat workers of foreign companies is a big problem now just like it was back then. The new school YISS that was built at great expense to the Korean taxpayer to fix that problem has not done so.

    The next question is why hasn’t YISS achieved the purpose it was supposedly built for? There are 2 possible answers: (1) The school is already filled up and can’t accomodate any more kids of the expat employees of the foreign companies, or (2) the aforementioned expats don’t consider YISS to be an appropriate school for their kids. Lets consider each of these possibilities in turn.
    Regarding (1), let’s note the admission policy of YISS. There are 2 priority groups. First priority is given to the kids of expat workers of foreign companies. All other students who are elligible to enroll according to Korean law belong in principle to the 2nd priority group. YISS is highly secretive about how it chooses which students to admit from the 2nd priority group, but by now a substantial amount of anecdotal evidence has emerged that they prioritize the kids of the local Korean elites. See for example the comment thread in this post:

    http://www.rjkoehler.com/2006/07/06/amcham-statement-on-yongsan-international-school-and-ics
    (See in particular the comments by `xyz’ towards the bottom of that thread. He mentions having first-hand knowledge of a case where YISS opened a new grade 1 class with 30 new places; an expat kid with foreign passport and a parent with foreign passport had his application turned down while another kid, who had grown up in Korea but had a foreign passport, and whose parents were both Koreans, had his application accepted.)

    As further evidence there is this article:

    http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2011/04/117_72823.html

    which states that only 34% of YISS students have foreign passports, implying that 66% of the students are Korean citizens. This of course does not count the culturally Korean students whose parents arranged for them to be born in USA to get US citizenship, or the parents who bought an Ecuadorian passport for their kid, etc.

    As for whether YISS is so completely filled up with the kids of the local elites that they are not able to accomodate applications from expat kids in the 1st priority group, I don’t know. If anyone else knows the answer to this it would be interesting to hear it.

    Regarding (2): The issue here is not academic standards at YISS, which are probably fine, but whether expats regard YISS as a genuinely international school or just another glorified hagwon whose main purpose is to serve the needs of the local Korean elites. I don’t know the answer. But still we can make some strong conclusions based on what we do know. The reality is that, despite its capacity of 1000 students, YISS has not solved the problem of lack of appropriate school places for the kids of expat workers for foreign companies, cf. the article discussed in the original post. From that alone we know that either (1) or (2), or some mixture of them, must be true. If it is (1), i.e. YISS is already filled up, we look at the fact that a large majority (more than 66%) of their students are the kids of the local elites, and see that they have allowed the school to become filled up with those students resulting in the exclusion of the expat kids for whom the school was supposedly built.
    On the other hand, if it is (2), we see that the school authorities, or more precisely the Korean authorities who control the school, have not done what they said they would do, namely create a genuinely international school (as opposed to another glorified hagwon).
    In either case, the implication is that, in practice, the purpose of the school has been first and foremost to serve the needs of the local elites rather than the expats. So the Korean authorities were dishonest and misleading when they originally announced what the purpose of the new school was to be. Furthermore, by involving the AmCham chairman and other leaders of the foreign community in their scheme, the Korean authorities have used and made fools of those people.

    It should be emphasized that for the foreign community in general YISS has been a loss rather than a gain. The former school ICS was a very reasonable and cheaper alternative to SFS for expat kids. It wasn’t particularly attractive to the local elites, and its admissions policy was not set by the Korean authorities (it was run by a private organization), so the kids of real foreigners could easily enroll there. (There was a waiting list, but only for the local kids – real foreign kids could walk right in). Now it is gone, and in its place is a school for the kids of the local elites which is in practice effecitively closed to the kids of foreigners, with the possible exception of foreigners who are working for a foreign company. There is a moral here for members (and especially leaders) of the foreign community in Seoul that is worth reflecting on, especially now when history is about to repeat. (All this talk about the lack of “appropriate” schools for kids of expats, the Korean govt saying that it will build a new foreign school, etc. – a rerun of what was said 10 years ago.)

  • http://www.chinasmack.com/tag/funny/page/3 Jakgani

    Korean MODERN culture…

    it’s trash isn’t it?

    If you drop out of high school in Korea (like Gates and Jobs) but become multi-billionaires in Korea – you will always be considered trash – because you DIDN”T finish UNIVERSITY.

    That’s what runs Korean society these days – the kids MUST complete a UNIVERSITY degree! – to be considered worthy of being human.

    Then, even that is not good enough.

    The kids must attend one of the three BEST universities.

    such a trashy society – I think.

    lost hope a long time ago – about what success is and what being “human is”.

    Let’s drag the kids through the sh!t as well.

  • http://www.chinasmack.com/tag/funny/page/3 Jakgani

    sorry – drop out of university (not High school)

  • http://bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    Your source for all these scandals regarding foreign schools is a Korean reporter, Kang Shin-who, who routinely lies about the foreign schools in order to stir up controversy. His lies about the foreign schools (YISS has not been his only victim) have been established as lies through litigation and court judgment. Kang doesn’t only have it out for the foreign schools; he seems to pretty xenophobic in general and has an axe to grind against English teachers. He’s pretty well-known in the English-language Korean blogosphere as the worst reporter in Korea.

  • itinerant physicist

    Well it seems this Kang Shin-who is a real nutcase then.
    In the article linked to by Marmot he’s writing under the fake name “Park Si-soo”(claiming to be a “staff reporter” for the KT), and as his made-up sources he quotes
    “an annual survey on foreign investors here by the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA). ”
    (an orgnization which doesn’t even exist!)
    and direct quotes from this fictitious person:
    “Jang Young-min, deputy director of the city’s competitiveness policy division.”
    Hell, I bet there’s even no such thing as as the “competitiveness policy division”!
    What a nutter that guy is!!

    (Keep digging that hole Brendon ;) )

  • DLBarch

    Ah, but do any of these schools have sports teams?

    ‘Cause it should be the god-given right of every American teenager anywhere in the world to either play sports in high school or at least have a chance to bang a cheerleader at the after-party of every Friday night home game.

    It’s an American right of passage, for gawd’s sake!

    DLB

  • yuna

    I read my own comment here, and that reminded me of a recent piece of news.
    http://www.yonhapnews.co.kr/bulletin/2012/10/24/0200000000AKR20121024190900056.HTML?did=1179m
    They are asking for withdrawing certain textbooks at both KIS and NLCS which have “Sea of Japan” instead of “East Sea”.
    I hate that issue. I would like somebody in the Korean politics with his head in the right place to start a “This issue is so stupid, it detracts and dirties other issues” campaign.

    Concerning the constant carping on about the Korean “international school” system, I believe the system is being misused because South Korea lacks the necessary elite, extortionate and exclusive primary and secondary schools to accomodate everybody who has so much money to make their kids so very special. Come on, it is a society that constantly thrives on “not only keeping up with the Joneses but beating them by miles” and crazy about education selecting out the elite early on. However, the system as is (unlike Japan) does not have *enough* private schools (there are a couple) where these la-di-da parents can pay vast sums of money and dress their children up and make themselves feel like royalty, besides sending them to boarding schools abroad, like Phillips Exeter or Eton.

    Hence. the replacement: international schools.

    This fairy-tale wish is shown in the popularity of drama based on Japanese manga/drama “Boys over Flowers” and other such crap.

  • Bella

    It is very interesting to see people who want to leave Korea because school is expensive to go somewhere else. Where exactly do you want to go? School is US are very expensive compared to other countries and the cost of living adding to that, make it harder even for his owns citizen who are mostly in debt. Wherever you want to go (like Switzerlan, England) I don’t think you will find cheaper school. Now if we are focus on education, I think it is good to find a school that has a good accreditation and very importantly is the environment of your children. I saw many parents who are working hard and believe by only sending their children abroad, it will be better for them. There is nothing wrong with that (looking for better opportunities) but Again it is always better to have your children respect!! Life is hard every where, and education can just help you have better employment. Safe environment is better!!!

  • itinerant physicist

    Correction to something in my earlier post:

    The percentage of students who are Korean citizens at YISS is 34% (seems the article I linked to mixed up that number with the number of non-Korean passport-holders).
    In fact this data is available on a Korean govt website:
    http://www.isi.go.kr/English/Policy/SPolicy02E.php

    The percentage of YISS students who are culturally Korean is much higher though. (Those whose parents arranged for them to be born in USA, or who bought them an Ecuadorian passport, etc.)

    In fact the data on the website linked to above allows us to find out how international YISS is compared to a typical Korean “international” school. Lets compare YISS with the uber-hagwon SIS. According to the govt data, the percentage of SIS students who are Korean citizens is 33%. That’s less than YISS!! So YISS has ended up becoming just as much of a Korean hagwon as the other “international” schools there. The difference between YISS and the others such as SIS is that the others were all built with private money whereas YISS was built at huge expense to the Korean taxpayer on valuable land in central Seoul owned by the state.

    There is a massive scandal here. The Korean elites have built an exclusive school for their own, i.e. the kids of the Korean elites, but they did not pay for it themselves; instead they swindled the money and land from the Korean state. They did this by lying to the people that the purpose of the school was to attract foreign investment by providing needed school places for the expat kids. In reality this was never their intention; it was to be a school for their own kids, and the only reason they admit a few foreign kids there is to provide English practice for the locals.

    In almost any other country this would be a massive scandal. But S. Korea is so corrupt that it is probably nothing out of the ordinary there.

  • itinerant physicist

    I forgot to add that now they are doing it again, i.e. swindling money and/or land from the Korean state to establish new “international’ schools for the kids of the local elites. They are using the same lie as before, i.e. justifying why the taxpayer should pay by saying that the schools will help to “attract foreign investment”.

  • Bella

    Well there is many kinds of international schools, like canadians ones for exemple. International schools are mostly for Diplomat people or foreigners to keep educating their children in their own languages. Local people are welcome to go to. I think that’s why they have international schools in so different countries. Is there any other school that has great accreditation in korea for the kids?

  • dogbertt

    The simple and obvious solution, of course, is to remove oneself and one’s family from Korea when one’s children are school age.

    If one is truly itinerant, no problemo.

  • itinerant physicist

    @Bella,

    “It is very interesting to see people who want to leave Korea because school is expensive to go somewhere else. Where exactly do you want to go?”

    I can’t speak for EFLGeek and the others, but if I was in his situation then my first preference would be to go to USA so my kids could get educated for free in a good public school there.

    “Wherever you want to go (like Switzerlan, England) I don’t think you will find cheaper school.”

    You could not be more wrong about that. Pretty much anywhere else that you go you will be able to find cheaper and better value options for international schools than in Korea. For example, when I worked in Holland my kids were able to attend a good international school there which cost just a few thousand euros per year (a fraction of what it costs in Korea). The school was subsidized by the Dutch govt. (They felt obliged to provide an affordable option for Dutch kids who had lived abroad and needed to continue their educaton in English, and also wanted to make working in Holland attractive to expats.)
    The point is that most countries provide a variety of international school options for foreigners. These range from expensive exclusive schools where your kids can make friend with the kids of ambassadors and CEOs to affordable, reasonable quality schools for normal people.
    In Seoul the only genuine international school is SFS which is quite exclusive and expensive. The only other option are the pretend-international schools attended mostly by Korean students which are all expensive (same price range as SFS) but generally have very average (or less than average) education quality. Those schools are rip-offs as far as value for money goes. My daughter attended one of them, and it wasn’t too bad, but like I said a rip-off cost-wise.
    We also lived in Taiwan for a year and the situation with international schools is similar to Korea – most of them are pretend-international with mostly local students. But the cost of my daughter’s school there was less than half of what we paid to send her to one of the cheapest pretend-international schools in Seoul (whose quality was no better than the Taiwan school). Korea is probably the worst country in the world as far as options for iternational schools go.

    “Is there any other school that has great accreditation in korea for the kids?”

    I expect there are some expensive and exclusive Korean-language schools there just like in every other country. But as I discussed in the earlier post, there are not an attractive option for many of the Korean elites unless they are confident that their kid will be able to get into SNU.

  • itinerant physicist

    “The simple and obvious solution, of course, is to remove oneself and one’s family from Korea when one’s children are school age.”

    Well, one might not want to continue being itinerant all ones days.
    Negatives like hassles with finding suitable schools for kids need to be balanced against positives e.g. long-term job prospects.

  • http://bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    Well, one might not want to continue being itinerant all ones days.
    Negatives like hassles with finding suitable schools for kids need to be balanced against positives e.g. long-term job prospects.

    Right. So shut up.

  • itinerant physicist

    But what if I don’t want to shut up Brendon?

  • Yu Bum Suk

    30, Your posts were very interesting to read. Whatever happened to the idea of putting a bunch of international schools on Jejudo so that Korean parents wouldn’t have to send their kids abroad?

  • brier

    There is some information here YBS: http://bit.ly/S2oqW9

  • http://bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    But what if I don’t want to shut up Brendon?

    Well, then I’d expect you’ll prattle on as you have been, with half-baked and racist conspiracy theories.

    You realize, of course, that you have praised the Netherlands for the exact same thing for which you’re denouncing Korea: Using taxpayer funds to build foreign schools which primarily educate elite Dutch children with foreign passports or whose parents have somehow had them enrolled in school systems abroad. When Korean kids turn up in foreign schools in Seoul, it’s an outrage, but you approve of the Dutch model. The only difference I can see is that the Dutch subsidize the tuition for their elite kids and for the foreign kids who attend the same school.

    This leads me to the conclusion that your real objection is that you’ve had to pay tuition for your own kid to attend foreign school, which you’d rather have been at a low, subsidized price.

    I’d like the subsidized price too. I’m a product of public middle and high schools, and public universities. I think it’s a public good. However, if that public good is not available to me exactly as I’d like it to be (your kid could have attended a Korean public school without any quibble, if you were willing to subject her to a Korean-language curriculum), I suck it up and pay. Yes, it’s expensive — W70 million of my pre-tax income is allocated to school tuition for two daughters — and I’d rather have the money to spend on booze, tattoos and loose women, or even family vacations. But isn’t that sacrifice what being a parent is all about?

    Similarly-situated Korean parents spend more than I do on their kids’ education, even if the child is in a “good” public school.

  • JK

    To Brendan Carr @ 29:

    I’ve had my own clashes with other commenters on this blog, but dang, was that really necessary?? Unless I missed something and you two were having it out on another thread, it seems the Itinerant Physicist has not said anything personal to you.

  • JW

    That’s why nobody should have no qualms about trashing on Brendon Carr. He enjoys this stuff. Marmot’s Hole is his spiritual toilet where he enjoys taking massive dumps on people.

  • gbnhj

    JK, those two have crossed paths before. They both seem to have picked up right where they left off, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

  • JK

    ghnhj, ahhh….got it.

    JW, the shop on Lee Hwy in Fairfax is awesome!

  • slim

    Who’s right on the international school facts, would be my question.

  • itinerant physicist

    JK, don’t worry about it, gbnhj is right. In fact Brendon seems more restrained these days than when I last encountered him here 7 years ago. Must be getting old… I’m a bit disappointed he didn’t take the bait as much as I expected him to…
    It’s amusing though that he presents himself as a defender of English teachers in #18, considering that bashing them used to be one of his favorite pastimes here.

    Brendon I’ll reply to your nonsense tomorrow — got better thing to do on a Friday night.

  • CactusMcHarris

    #39,

    Not to worry – he still bashes them, too, but only when they need it.

    Is ‘better thing’ what it’s being called now? Kids these days….

  • CactusMcHarris

    #35,

    I wouldn’t consider it such, but if I did, I’d take great enjoyment on being the top rather than the bottom, you know what I mean? Come on, except for his political leanings he’s one who gives on-the-spot guidance and counseling to all who seek it, makes it interesting, teaches HTML code, and also gives legal advice, all for free.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    Apparently, I am the only person in the world who is specifically planning to Korea when my children are school-aged, so that they will attend Korea’s public schools.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    planning to *move to* Korea …

    My goal is to never pay for any formal K-12 education (except maybe for some 육성회비 here and there,) and not pay more than $15,000 a year per child for college. I attended one of the world’s best colleges paying $4,000 a year, thank you very much.

  • DLBarch

    Go Bears!

    DLB

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ jefferyhodges

    Baylor Bears?

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • itinerant physicist

    “Well, then I’d expect you’ll prattle on as you have been, with half-baked and racist conspiracy theories.”

    Your characterization of what I wrote as racist is despicable. As for “conspiracy theories”, feel free to propose your own theories that can explain the known facts in a plausible way.

    “You realize, of course, that you have praised the Netherlands for the exact same thing for which you’re denouncing Korea: Using taxpayer funds to build foreign schools which primarily educate elite Dutch children with foreign passports or whose parents have somehow had them enrolled in school systems abroad. When Korean kids turn up in foreign schools in Seoul, it’s an outrage, but you approve of the Dutch model. The only difference I can see is that the Dutch subsidize the tuition for their elite kids and for the foreign kids who attend the same school.”

    You don’t have a clue. It was a completely different situation to the one in Korea. The Dutch students at that school were all ones who had previously been educated abroad in English. There was no motivation for local Dutch students to attend that school — it would not give them any advantage compared to being educated in a normal Dutch school. Dutch elites who wanted an exclusive school for their kids would send them to an elite school, not a school costing only a few thousand euros a year and filled with regular kids. The way you spout off about things you don’t have a clue about really is staggering.

    “I’d like the subsidized price too. I’m a product of public middle and high schools, and public universities. I think it’s a public good. However, if that public good is not available to me exactly as I’d like it to be [...], I suck it up and pay. Yes, it’s expensive — W70 million of my pre-tax income is allocated to school tuition for two daughters —…”

    Thank you for sharing that fascinating info about your background. Good for you for sucking it up and paying for the schooling. That’s also what I did while we were there.

    “(your kid could have attended a Korean public school without any quibble, if you were willing to subject her to a Korean-language curriculum)”

    Sending my daughter to a Korean language school when she was in 11th grade and didn’t know Korean would have been hugely irresponsible. If you can’t understand that there’s really no hope for you.

    “and I’d rather have the money to spend on booze, tattoos and loose women, or even family vacations. But isn’t that sacrifice what being a parent is all about?”

    Now you’re making me feel bad for all the money I spent on booze, tattoes and loose women which I should have been spending on my kid’s education.

    “This leads me to the conclusion that your real objection is that you’ve had to pay tuition for your own kid to attend foreign school, which you’d rather have been at a low, subsidized price.”

    As you know from our previous exchanges, my only objection at the time was that the Korean authorities lied about the true purpose of the new foreign school (YISS). But that was a long time ago and it’s not why I’m here now. Now that some years have past we can look at how YISS has turned out, and then it becomes clear that something hugely corrupt has occurred. Someone should point it out, especially since it seems that the story is about to repeat with the new foreign schools. Since no one else has done it properly, it might as well be me.
    (Your buddy Kang Shin-who, with whom you share a common passion for bashing English teachers, has looked into it a bit and written a few articles, but he hasn’t grasped the full picture. And now he has apparently moved on to other things.)

    Now that I’ve done it I’ll move on and leave you all in peace. Will drop by again in another couple of years to see if there are any new developments.

  • http://bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    Sending my daughter to a Korean language school when she was in 11th grade and didn’t know Korean would have been hugely irresponsible. If you can’t understand that there’s really no hope for you.

    Shh. Don’t tell AFS.

  • itinerant physicist

    #40 & 41,

    “Not to worry – he still bashes them, too, but only when they need it.”

    I hope the English teachers are appropriately grateful to Brendon for bashing them when they need it.

    “I wouldn’t consider it such, but if I did, I’d take great enjoyment on being the top rather than the bottom, you know what I mean? ”

    Oh yes we know what you mean.

    “he’s one who gives on-the-spot guidance and counseling to all who seek it, makes it interesting, teaches HTML code, and also gives legal advice, all for free.”

    I hope his free legal advice is more accurate than the statements he made in the past on the current topic. By the way, HTML tutorials are available for free on the internet, although it requires a bit of initiative to find them and read them.

    “Is ‘better thing’ what it’s being called now? Kids these days….”

    I can understand you were confused about that.

  • CactusMcHarris

    #48,

    I see you’re an itinerant physicist, but a permanent prick. It’s a name well-earned at least on one count that’s evident. And a good day to you.

    I forgot one of his more important attributes – former naval linguist. Those people are gods-on-earth – discuss at your leisure.

  • Sonagi

    Foreign students who attend US public high schools through AFS or other international exchange programs are expected to have high enough proficiency in English to do regular coursework. Unscrupulous exchange program recruiters who dump students with limited English on local public schools risk having the schools withdraw participation in the program.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    “Apparently, I am the only person in the world who is specifically planning to Korea when my children are school-aged, so that they will attend Korea’s public schools.”

    Mate, Korean PSs have changed *a lot* since you went to one. Unless you plan on sending them to a foreign language HS with lots of other like-minded parents I’d suggest you not even entertain the thought. If you want decent PS education, send them to an American school in a rich white and / or Asian neighbourhood in the US. Make no doubt about it, Korea *had* the opportunity to create the best of both worlds: respect for education and discipline to make anything work along with a shift to an emphasis on production of and assessment of original material. Instead it’s moved to the worst of both worlds: apathy and despair amongst all but the best and brightest students and boring, often pointless, rote learning.

    Send them to public elementary school here if you don’t mind teaching them yourself and / or with the help of a lot of private tutors. As for middle school, well, you could luck out with them getting an extremely good class and teachers, but more likely it will be mostly a waste of time surrounded by kids who think anything but studying for multiple-choice tests is a waste of time. As for high school, you can probably remember the days when you heard a story about a Korean-American family sending their daughter back to Korea for school because they found her smoking. These days it would probably be better to send her in the opposite direction if that’s such a concern.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    32, thanks for the link.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    Sending my daughter to a Korean language school when she was in 11th grade and didn’t know Korean would have been hugely irresponsible.

    I began attending an American public school when I was in 10th grade with barely functional command of English at the time. Just sayin’.

    Mate, Korean PSs have changed *a lot* since you went to one. Unless you plan on sending them to a foreign language HS with lots of other like-minded parents I’d suggest you not even entertain the thought.

    Such grim views, YBS. I am not sure if I want my kids to go to a FHS (attended one, a little too much,) but I think a good public elementary school in a good neighborhood should be just fine in Korea. Beats the hell out of paying $30K+ for private schools in U.S.

  • Sonagi

    You may have a different understanding of “barely functional” language proficiency than I, TK, but we can both agree that your public high school provided you with free, appropriate instructional support, which certainly included ESOL if you were indeed “barely functional” in English and possibly differentiated small group instruction in other subjects.

  • gbnhj

    tk, you should also include the great motivational differences likely between yourself at that age, and this fellow’s daughter. Whereas you emigrated with your family to a country whose language you say you barely knew, this girl, while facing a possibly similar linguistic challenge, had no apparent intention to stay.

  • itinerant physicist

    TK, adding to what Sonagi and Gbnhj said:

    There’s a big difference between having `barely functional’ proficiency in a language and not knowing it at all. I assume you had English classes at your school in Korea before going to USA, and maybe also English hagwon lessons, so you weren’t starting from zero.
    Also, if my daughter graduated from a Korean highschool then she would have been limited to Korea for universities and working life afterwards. That might have been ok if we were sure we would settle there for the long term. But my contract at SNU was a temporary one; there was a possibility it could become permanent but no guarantee. And we didn’t know if we would want to stay there in any case. (As it turned out I later found a much better job in Singapore, which really is a land of milk and honey for academics. The ironic thing is that my present university would pay the all the tuition for my kids at whatever expensive international school I decided to send them to, but now they have all graduated :( )

    Besides that I know from personal experience what it’s like to go to school in a foreign country without knowing the language. When I was 8 my family moved from USA to Denmark and I was thrown in the deep end in a local Danish school. It was horrible! I didn’t have a clue what was going on in class, couldn’t communicate with the other kids and just gave up on school, spent all the time acting up and getting into whatever trouble I could find. After a year I had learnt the language enough communicate but by then I had lost all interest in schoolwork and continued to suck at it for many years.
    When you put a kid in that situation it’s enormously frustrating; the kid will find outlets for the frustration and they won’t be good ones. It can turn out ok in the long run if the kid is young enough (like I was), but for kids who are already advanced in their schooling (like my daughter who was entering 11th grade) it’s just irresponsible. Maybe it could somehow work if the kid is very academically strong and motivated, but for `normal’ kids like my daughter its a seriously bad thing to try.

    Anyway the “international” school option worked out ok for my daughter in the end. Even though the tuition cost was a rip-off it still did its job of allowing her to graduate from high school, and she managed to get into a good university in Australia afterwards where she’s doing fine. (Still costing me a bloody fortune though!) Some foreign parents have mentioned that their kids were given a hard time by the Korean kids in the international schools; my daughter also had some trouble with this but at the same time she also became close friends with some of them (and still is) so that side of things worked out ok overall as well.

    @CactusMcHarris, #49:
    I was provoked. Be nice to me and I’ll be nice back.

  • Bella

    Going to a public school in US, it will depend where in US and what town. Even you don’t have to pay for the public schools, the town, the state is very important. Dropping school here is US is high. If you can manage to pay a good money to live in a towns(security for children) that has a good school ( so that they can select the university of their choice) to send your children I think it will be better that you go back to Taiwan. Because it is very expensive. Please give me some example where in US and what towns? Private schools and charter schools are key, I don’t say again that US doesn’t have good public schools but again you have to live in a expensive towns and also it will depend of the school to accept a foreign student depending of the distance your house (beccause it might be another public school that is closer to you). If you are thinking about excurricular activities like piano, again you will have to pay for them to go and it is expensive.

  • Bella

    Stability for children is key, moving to so many schools is not good. I know parents want a good education for their children but you can find a good place in Korea to send them. Does your children like Korea?

  • itinerant physicist

    Bella,

    “Please give me some example where in US and what towns?”

    Sure. Back in 2001–2002 we lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina for a year, and my 2 daughters went to school there. The public schools in Chapel Hill are all excellent, among the best in the US, and we were very happy with them. My salary that time was small, around $35,000 (compare to the average US salary of approx 40,000). We found a small but nice enough apartment to rent for around $800 per month, and everything worked out financially. There was no money left over for piano lessons or anything like that, but on the other hand my daughters had the chance to get to know USA which is not such a bad thing.

    I think in the popular regions in USA — the big cities on the east and west coast — it is probably very hard to find affordable places to live where the public schools are good. But if you consider less popular regions (which are still perfectly ok places to live) this is possible.

    “Stability for children is key, moving to so many schools is not good.”

    Stability is an important factor for getting good grades, but environment is an important factor too. Kids tend to raise or lower their level to match the environment they are in. But the thing that ultimately matters for future job prospects is that the kids get into good universities and do well there. Fortunately this is the case for both my daughters. And now they also have the experience of having lived in various different countries, which has been enriching for them.

    “but you can find a good place in Korea to send them. Does your children like Korea?”

    My youngest daughter (the only one who was with me in Korea) loved Korea and still does. But no I couldn’t find a good (international) school in Korea to send her to. Still, it worked out ok in the end as mentioned in my other post.

  • yuna

    As somebody who did go to schools in many different countries, one thing I would like to share.
    Stability is the key indeed HOWEVER not of geography but of things like “1.father’s position and income” and “2.love between the parents” is the key.
    Though I don’t know key to what..Angst from unstable homes do plenty to nurture future artists and great minds.
    All I mean is I felt the happiest and most content during those times and my teenage turbulance was easier to bear.

  • itinerant physicist

    Yuna, I agree very much.

    “Angst from unstable homes do plenty to nurture future artists and great minds.”

    My youngest daughter is an aspiring artist, so I just hope we have messed her up sufficiently to be a good one ;)

  • Bella

    Thank you for such great answers! There is also the Jesuit schools, there are catholic shools and the education is great. I think my last question will be where you think the best international schools are? I know you talk about Holland and Tawain, can you give me more suggestions?

  • itinerant physicist

    Bella,

    Thanks. I assume your question about best schools refers to international schools in non-English speaking countries. Well, for academic standards and quality of teaching I expect that the expensive, exclusive international schools are best (at least I hope so, considering how much they charge). You can find those in pretty much any developed country in the world. I couldn’t say which countries have the best ones; probably they are all very good. But this is only true for the genuine international schools. The situation in Korea and Taiwan (and maybe some other Asian countries?) is a bit special, since the local elites have an obsession with sending their kids to “international” schools. This market demand leads to the appearance of many pretend-international schools, charging the same level of fees as the genuine ones, but with a lower quality of education. (E.g. it is hard to deliver high quality education when the school is teaching in a language (English) that most of the students are not fluent in. But they can be high quality hagwons for the locals ;))

    For affordable international schools, which are subsidized by the state, I expect the quality is probably related to how much money the country uses on public spending for education in general, and the standard of its regular public schools. So probably the schools in northern European countries are the best. At any rate, the quality of the school that my kids attended in the Netherlands was very good, same level as the good public schools they previously went to in USA. But as far as I know these state-subsidized, genuine international schools don’t exist in Asia. (The Korean govt pretended to create one (YISS) but we have seen how that turned out… Now they are pretending to create some more, but it is just more corrupt use of state money to serve the needs of the local elites while telling the people that the purpose is something different. I guess they figure that since they got away with it once why not do it again…)
    When the European countries create these schools, a big part of the motivation is to expand the talent pool of potential employees for the local companies by making it feasible for them to hire foreigners. I guess this just isn’t a strong enough motivation for Korea and other Asian countries.

    International schools set up by religious organizations can sometimes be a good enough and relatively affordable option, especially in Asia. But it’s important to research the school and organization first to check that they aren’t complete nutters. My daughter attended such a school in Taiwan. It was ok, but the education quality was well below that of her previous international school in the Netherlands. This was partly because the teachers were less experienced and capable, and partly because the school had to adjust the way it taught to take into account that most of the students were locals with limited English fluency. Same problem at the pretend-international schools in Korea, except that the schools are more than twice as expensive as their Taiwanese counterparts…

    “There is also the Jesuit schools, there are catholic shools and the education is great.”

    Hmmm… As someone who had the misfortune of being sent to a catholic boarding school for high school I have to disagree that this is generally true. I think it depends on which order of priests are running the school. The Jesuits seem like quite an enlightened bunch, so maybe their schools are ok. But there are other orders that are much less so. E.g. the Marists who ran the school I went to. They had a deep-rooted, instinctive hatred of anything intellectual, and were big into “molding the characters” of the kids in their care. But as is usually the case with those who seek to mold the characters of others, their own characters were not exactly exemplary. Maybe you have seen news stories about the scandals with pedophile priests at catholic schools in USA, Ireland, Austalia, New Zealand… The real scandal is not that there were pedophiles (it could happen at any school) but the way those in charge tried (and succeeded for many years) to cover it up and moved the priests around to different schools where they continued their pedophilic activities. It even happened at my school while I was there (although I wasn’t one of the victims and didn’t know about it until many years later when a priest ended up in court). Looking after their own and protecting their reputation was much more important to them than the welfare of the kids in their care. Not exactly the most qualified people to be molding kids’ characters… It’s a bit like entrusting Korean govt authorities with state money to build an international school for foreigners. ;)

  • Bella

    That was a nice discussion and thank you for your answers and you’re sharing experience. I have to say that I had a catholic education, it wasn’t too bad but one never really knows what is around. Well, with so much knowledge in the education environment, I am sure that your children will get the best. I am thinking to move to Singapore and send my children to Saint Joseph international school, I heard it’s not too bad, well, we will see. After a year I will put some comments and if I am thinking about South korea again, I will return asking questions!! Take care :-)