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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Times on Aug. 27)

All Headlines 09:28 August 27, 2016

Diversity in public schools

Korea's elementary and secondary schools have been lacking in globalization efforts. A couple of recent cases shows that Korean adolescents may get more chances to learn about the merits of diversity and embrace multiculturalism in their formative years.

The Seoul City education office announced last week that it will pursue the establishment of "international elementary schools," offering Chinese immersion programs at schools located in parts of Seoul with a growing Chinese-speaking population. The education office has chosen Youngil Elementary School in Guro and Daedong Elementary School in Yeongdeungpo to try out the Chinese immersion program. These two schools offer regular classes and extra-curricular activities in both Korean and Chinese. The education office is aiming to establish the two schools as international elementary schools by 2018.

Whether this plan will become a reality is uncertain. Currently, the law governing the establishment of elementary and secondary schools does not allow an international educational curriculum at elementary schools. So a legislative revision will be necessary to establish an international elementary school. At the middle school level, there are four international schools.

The need for international elementary schools is highlighted when considering the growing number of foreign, particularly Chinese, students. Latest statistics show that multicultural children account for 2.2 percent of all elementary school students in Korea, marking the first time for the percentage to exceed 2 percent. The presence of multicultural children will continue to grow in Korean schools as the latest survey showed 8.3 percent of all marriages were interethnic. But Koreans are still reluctant to embrace these people as one of us. Many multicultural children suffer from discrimination and often fall behind in school because of language problems.

The Seoul education office's attempt to foster international elementary schools should gain more support from the central government as a good way to globalize Korean children in an age of multiculturalism.

In another case of global education, 50 Chinese students from one high school in Beijing recently gained media attention by transferring to several high schools in Seoul. This is the first time for such a large number of students from a single overseas high school to transfer to Korea. This has been made possible because foreign language high schools in Seoul such as Daewon Foreign Language High School have a special admission program for foreign students. More high schools need to engage in such international exchange programs for a more culturally diverse education. This is crucial to raising the quality of Korean public schools.

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