Big demand for English lessons

April 3, 1998

STUDENTS in South Korea are learning more about the west as part of their country's Saegaewha, or "Greater Globalisation", programme. English language, western business and other international courses in universities have all been expanded.

The changes are a response to the government's desire for South Korea to become a prominent member of the international community. Spectacular economic growth over the past three decades has already transformed South Korea from a poor developing nation into one of the world's most successful industrial and trading powers.

"South Korea wants to raise its international profile," said Cho Yonghak, a lecturer in Seoul. "The government is following the example of Japan by using higher education to help its people become more internationally minded."

Internationalisation also in-volves welcoming more foreign lecturers. Several thousand English-speaking students are now working as language assistants or informal English-language tutors. At the same time some of South Korea's English-language lecturers are travelling to English-speaking countries to improve their conversational skills.

More universities are organising student exchange schemes with colleges in Los Angeles and other United States cities with large ethnic Korean populations.

The demand for English-language lessons has soared. The recently opened Kwangju Institute of Science and Technology hires English-speaking lecturers, including expatriate South Koreans, to raise the standard of spoken English and increase the number of research papers published in English.

For maths and science, two subjects in which South Korean students have repeatedly performed impressively in international tests of academic attainment, the strategy is to encourage creative and original thinking to produce innovative engineers and scientists.

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