Among middle school students, the number fell to 550 last year from 1,247 in 2006. In the same period, the figure for elementary school students dropped to 1,064 from 1,270.
If Gangnam area residents are starting this downward trend, the rest of the country is likely to follow suit, the report said.
The total number of the nation’s elementary, middle and high school students studying overseas has also fallen. Hitting an all-time high at 29,511 in 2006, the figure fell to 27,668 in 2007 and 27,349 in 2008. The 2009 figure has yet to be tallied, but is most likely to be smaller.
English bubble burst?
Some analysts have suggested that the “English bubble” is deflating. “With more prestigious specialized schools putting less weight on TOEIC, TOEFL and other English proficiency test results in their admissions criteria, more parents are less likely to send their children abroad spend a lot of money and deal with the other side effects,” Kim Seong-cheon, spokesman of civic group “World Without Private Education” was quoted as saying to Yonhap.
Some agents taking care of overseas school admissions believe the shift in public school English education to speaking and other practical English skills from reading and writing is also helping narrow the gap between those who have studied abroad and those who haven’t.
“There were also reports that those who studied abroad are unable to smoothly re-adjust to the academic atmosphere in Korea. This may have impeded students planning to enroll at domestic high schools or universities,” an official from the education ministry said.
In fact, in a separate report by KEDI in 2007, more than 50 percent of the 418 elementary, middle and high school students studying in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and China said they wouldn’t recommend the academic sojourn to others.
On the other hand, some skeptics say the phenomenon is a temporary one, affected by the global economic slump and the low birthrate. “Most students are in elementary schools. Since the number of students in that bracket has been falling fast, it is natural that the number of students going abroad also gets smaller,” an education ministry official said.