Sunday, August 22, 2010

Beginning of English as Korea's unofficial language

By 2015, if all goes according to plan, 12 prestigious Western schools will have opened branch campuses in a [South Korean] government-financed, 940-acre Jeju Global Education City, a self-contained community within Seogwipo, where everyone — students, teachers, administrators, doctors, store clerks — will speak only English. The first school, North London Collegiate, broke ground for its campus this month.

While this is the country’s first enclave constructed expressly around foreign-style education, individual campuses are opening elsewhere. Dulwich College, a private British school, is scheduled to open a branch in Seoul, the capital, in a few weeks. And the Chadwick School of California is set to open a branch in Songdo, a new town rising west of Seoul, around the same time.

What is happening in South Korea is part of the global expansion of Western schools — a complex trend fueled by parents in Asia and elsewhere who want to be able to keep their families together while giving their children a more global and English-language curriculum beginning with elementary school, and by governments hoping for economic rewards from making their countries more attractive to foreigners with money to invest. ...

“There is an expressed desire in Korea to seek the benefits of a ‘Western’ or ‘American’ approach to pre-collegiate education,” said Ted Hill, headmaster of the Chadwick School, whose Songdo campus has been deluged with applicants to fill the 30 percent of slots reserved for Korean students. The balance of the student body will be recruited from expatriate families living in South Korea and China. ...

...Dulwich College Management International ... has a government-set 25 percent ceiling on Korean students at its Seoul school.

In South Korea, English proficiency and a diploma from a top American university are such important status markers that some deliberately sprinkle their Korean conversation with English phrases.
--Choe Sang-Hun, NYT, on the diminishing returns to speaking Korean

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