Unauthorized international schools still in business in Korea despite crackdown

2017.09.17 13:17:23 | 2017.09.17 13:18:12

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Despite the education authority’s massive crackdown on unauthorized international schools in South Korea, many of them are still in business by evading the law.

According to multiple sources on Friday, EtonHouse Prep, an unauthorized international school in Hannam-dong, central Seoul, is currently recruiting new foreign teachers and local students although its license was suspended by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education in July.

The facility was registered as a hagwon, or private tutoring service that was allowed to teach English only, but was managed to offer regular school curriculum covering all subjects in English. The education authority’s decision to close down the school came after the immigration service under the Ministry of Justice in May issued deportation orders for foreign teachers who taught subjects other than English with E-2 visa issued only for the purpose of teaching language.

Currently, there are only five international schools that have been officially approved by the education authority - Chadwick International School in Songdo, Incheon, Daegu International School, Branksome Hall Asia, North London Collegiate School Jeju, and Korea International School. But the number of unauthorized international school has risen rapidly amid high demand for English education in the country.

According to sources, EtonHouse Prep has recently sent out letters to parents that it is planning to merge with an alternative school in Gangnam, a mecca of hagwon in southern Seoul. The facility’s manager surnamed Lee is currently on trial while the police have launched an additional investigation.

The academy’s teachers said EtonHouse Prep allegedly deceived the authority to avoid crackdown. When it was tipped that officials from the education office was about to raid the facility for a crackdown, the school left its students who were returning from a school field trip at a nearby expressway rest area. It also hurriedly took students out to museums in Seoul and advised teachers to tell authorities that they were hired to teach English only.

Without official licenses, unapproved international schools are rapidly expanding their presence even in the international education zones created by the government and regional offices with hundreds of billions of won in taxpayers’ money.

Incheon Global Campus (IGC), a shared campus in Songdo, Incheon, was founded by Incheon Metropolitan City and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy based on 500 billion won ($441.5 million) investment to attract global universities.

From August, however, big language institutes have moved into the campus and are illegally offering regular school curriculums for local elementary, middle, and high school students. The tuition fee of these facilities is tens of millions of won a year and is blamed for instigating the country’s expensive private education market. Although these language institutions are registered as private tutoring centers, they have recruited foreign teachers and run them as an international school.

By Yoo Jun-ho

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