KISQ Nurtures Global Talents in China
School in Qingdao Asks Korean Education Authorities to Offer Textbooks
By Kang Shin-who
Korea Times Correspondent
QINGDAO, China ― Under the Lee Myung-bak government, Korean education authorities have been trying to diversify schools by allowing them to use their own unique curricula to meet the various demands of the parents.
These days, many parents are seeking international education for their children. In this regard, restrictions on establishing alternative schools have been removed.
Korean parents working overseas as well have the same demands for more flexible and autonomous education, and wish to nurture their children to make them competitive globally. However, the government has been indifferent to the voices of Koreans living abroad and many of them send their children to local schools or foreign international schools, rather than schools under the Korean government there.
This is why Lee Tae-hee, chairman of the Korean International School in Qingdao (KISQ), started to run a Korean-style international institute.
"A school needs to provide different education programs according to various academic environments. So the government should not insist that Korean schools in China have to offer the same curricula used in schools back in Korea," Lee told The Korea Times in an interview last Friday.
"Students here need to learn Korean and English as well as Chinese. It is impossible to satisfy demands of Korean parents here with the education courses set by the Korean government."
With these reasons, Lee decided to give up on getting a license from the Korean government and opted instead to run the school as a foreign institution with the approval of the Chinese education authorities.
The 45-year-old founder came to China in 1992 as an expatriate with an educational company. He quit in 1996 and started running a school in 2002 after he witnessed a number of Korean students failing to adapt to local seats of learning.
"There were many parents who didn't want to send their children to Korean schools here but have financial difficulties in making their children study at international schools. Those parents had to send children to local schools, but most of the students couldn't catch up with studies at the schools as it is hard for them to learn difficult Chinese characters," Lee said.
The school charges students less than 10 million won a year, a far cheaper price than international schools in China. Moreover, the school provides scholarships to those from low-income families, with 10 percent of students receiving full fees.
In the beginning, the school had less than 50 students and now KISQ has become the largest international institute in Qingdao, with some 550 students enrolled from kindergarten to high school.
The school features a trilingual program and many of the courses at the school are being co-taught by teachers of different nationalities. It has a total of 45 classes with 43 Korean, 41 Chinese and 26 English-speaking teachers.
Also, students can participate in a variety of activities, including pottery, taekwondo and jazz dance, as well as take field trips to other countries.
The school also boasts a "Model United Nations" program, which gives students a chance to hold conferences discussing international issues and network with many students from around the world.
This year, KISQ has introduced two programs to encourage their students read more books: the Scholastic Reading Counts (SRC) and Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI). SRC aims to question and test students by computer about books they read, and SRI graphs the progress of students in English reading.
Lee said that he hopes the Korean government will sell them Korean textbooks.
"We had difficulties in receiving school approval from the Chinese government as we insisted on Korean history education, but we finally persuaded Chinese authorities," Lee said. "However, the Korean government has done nothing for our school. I don't ask the government to do something for our school. I just want them to sell us Korean textbooks as we have a responsibility to help our children identify themselves as Koreans."
Asked about his opinion on studying overseas at a young age, he cautioned that many parents tend to leave Korea with the vague hope that their children can succeed through early education overseas, adding that the Korean government needs to reinforce public education.
"The Chinese also have severe competition among students seeking enrollment at prestigious universities. However, they don't spend much money on private education costs like Koreans do since public education is doing well with the thorough teacher assessment system," he said.
Most graduates have advanced to Korean universities through special admission programs, but KISQ plans to encourage more students to study at top Chinese universities, as well as those in other countries.