The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education in Korea has reported that middle school children, aged from 13 to 15 years old, are studying overseas in increasing numbers.
According to figures, 2,468 middle school-aged students applied for overseas study in 2001, compared with 1,801 in 2000. This represents a 37 per cent increase in applications, while the figure for high school-aged students (from 15 to 18 years old) applying to study overseas remained static at 1,908 in 2001.
The online newspaper, Digital Chosun, reported that applications from middle school-aged students are surging year on year. Ham Myeong-ja, a consultant based at the US Language School in Gangnam, told the publication that she had been overwhelmed by enquiries about study abroad from younger students, and that the age of enquirers was getting lower.
Min Woo Han, President of Sammee Educational Research Institute in Korea, told Language Travel Magazine that his office had also experienced a rise of about 10 per cent in clients of middle school age. Han said that the 13-to-18 year old age range represented the best potential for business growth, adding that the events of September 11 last year would not curb this growth.
Jesse Ro, International Marketing Manager at agency Uhak.com, similarly predicted that the 13-to-15 year old age range held most potential for increasing enrolments. 'This [middle school] sector has grown approximately 20 per cent on the previous year,' she said, 'although our main focus is on general English programmes for adults.' Ro added that while numbers to the USA had returned to normal, there was a notable rise in demand for study in Canada.
In 2000, the Korean government liberalised overseas study for high school-aged students only, fearing an explosion in study abroad numbers, but according to Ro, liberalised regulations now apply to students of middle school age as well.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance and Economy in Korea reported that money sent overseas from Korea last year, including money spent on tuition fees for overseas study, increased by seven per cent to US$12.8 billion (see Language Travel Magazine, March 2002, page 4).
Demand for Ielts explodes
The International English Language Testing System (Ielts) has boomed in popularity, according to IDP Education Australia, with the number of candidates almost doubling within the last two years. In 1999, 107,000 candidates sat the test internationally, while this figure grew to 141,000 in 2000 and 200,000 in 2001.
With new visa regulations in Australia that require an Ielts score from many student visa applicants, the popularity of the Ielts exam is set to rise further - which spells good news for IDP Education Australia, the British Council and the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (Ucles), which own Ielts.
Lindy Hyam, Chief Executive of IDP Education Australia, commented, 'Since the middle of last year, new student visa regulations have made the Ielts test mandatory for Indian students who are applying to study for further education or higher education in Australia. To serve this growing need, IDP is aiming to develop a network of testing centres throughout the country.'
Test-takers based in Australia, together with those in China who took the test via an IDP/British Council partnership in the country, were said to be the most numerous, accounting for 113,000 Ielts candidates in 2001.
Meanwhile, Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers the Test of English as a Foreign Language (Toefl), has announced a new capacity for students in China to test their writing skills. Kirson Herbert, an executive director at ETS, claimed that one in eight of the 800,000 students who sit the Toefl exam every year are Chinese. Richard Swartz, ETS Technologies' Chief Executive, explained that a practice essay can be submitted and a student can receive a score onscreen in about 10 seconds.
Learning English has gained importance in China, which has joined the World Trade Organisation and is hosting the Olympic Games in 2008. A Toefl score is favoured in North America as an indicator of English language ability required for entrance into tertiary education.
Funding delay for Sevis
International students entering the USA will initially not be required to pay a fee to fund the Student and Exchange Visitor Information Service (Sevis), which is to be launched by January 2003.
In March, the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) announced that 'the administration supports the statutory provision that Sevis is to be funded by a user fee... but the deployment date for fee collection has been deferred considering the authorisation of appropriated funding.' Under the USA Patriot Act, US$36 million has been allocated to develop Sevis.
'This means that, in the early stages of the deployment of Sevis, there will not be much impact on the visa applicant,' said Peter Thomas of the American Association for Intensive English Programs (AAIEP). 'This is good news, [and] it does [allow] us to continue to press our case.'
Led by the American Council on Education (Ace), many associations are continuing to negotiate for a student tracking scheme that is unrestrictive for students.
David Ward, President of Ace, has written to the Commissioner of the INS urging him to set up a payment procedure that will work alongside the current visa application process, for which students already have to pay a US$50 fee. 'We recommend that applicants for an F, M or J visa be required to submit the current visa application together with a Sevis registration form and pay a fee that would be somewhat higher - for example, US$80,' he wrote. Ward underlined that since the INS has received US$36 million to fund the development of Sevis, the original estimate by the INS of US$95 per student to fund the scheme was excessive. 'We believe that a much lower fee is required,' he said.
UK's mixed message on language learning
Foreign language acquisition in the UK has received a boost, as the government has published recommendations that all seven-year-olds should have access to foreign language tuition by 2010, a move that would bring Britain closer in line with many of its European neighbours.
However, at the same time, plans to allow pupils in England to drop foreign language study at 14 years old have been revealed, to the dismay of many advocates of modern language learning.
John Dunford, General Secretary of the Secondary Heads' Association, said, 'Young people should take modern languages to as high a level as possible, in order to open up the vast range of job opportunities that exist for them at all levels in Europe and elsewhere.' Steven Fawkes, a past president of the UK's Association for Language Learning, added, 'How can the government possibly overlook the huge gap... in language skills... when global communication is at a premium?'
The government's suggested reforms to the national curriculum would see just four core subjects remaining compulsory at 14 - English, maths, science and IT - while all other subjects would be chosen by the student.
'We want to develop a new approach to [language teaching],' stated the Department for Education and Skills in its green paper. 'The move to [language study being non-compulsory] will reflect the reality of large-sale disapplication in schools and should help us to focus on languages at [age 11 to 14] and in the longer-term, [junior-level]. Creating more space at Key Stage 4 [14 years old] will also make it easier for those who wish to study more than one language.'
Asians overtake Australians on ability
Students in Australia from Asian backgrounds, most of whom have parents of Chinese origin, are scoring higher average university entrance scores than native Australian students, research has revealed. The findings were the result of a survey of over 13,000 secondary school students.
The Australian Council for Educational Research tracked students from year nine through to their final year at school and recorded an average entrance score of 79 per cent for students of Asian ethnicity, while pupils from English-speaking homes averaged 68.8 per cent in the same entrance exams.
One school principal in Australia told the Times Educational Supplement that he believed the results reflected the high value placed on education by Chinese parents. Students with parents from northern Europe fared slightly better than native Australians, averaging 72 per cent in the exams, while those with parents from Africa achieved a similar 69 per cent and Middle Eastern students averaged 67 per cent.
Obituary - Erhard Waespi
Erhard Waespi, one of the forefathers of the language travel industry, passed away on January 7 this year. Having set up the Spawa school, which became the first branch of Eurocentres in Bournemouth, UK, Waespi spent his entire working career in the language travel industry, dedicating his energies to high standards of language teaching.
Born in Switzerland, Waespi worked in the UK, Switzerland and Italy, setting up schools that became the original foundation of Eurocentres' multinational network of schools. Waespi has also been credited with pioneering the concept of multimedia learning centres in the 1970s. He leaves a wife, Ida, in Switzerland.