A new breed of living creatures has emerged with the new millennium, and it¡¯s called the ¡°wild-goose fathers¡±. The term, which refers to those family men who live alone as the price of sending their children on early overseas education, vividly epitomizes the fervent dedication of Korean parents dedicated to their children¡¯s education.
In fact, according to a research carried out by the Ministry of Education, the number of early overseas education students has steadily been on the rise over the past few decades, and the number finally skyrocketed from 1,650 in 1999 to 7,378 last year.
Despite the fact that it seems a plausible route to escape the notorious Korean education system, early overseas study has produced two negative and controversial consequences, making it necessary for those parents who want the best for their children the best to consider carefully the various aspects of taking such a step.
One of the greatest doubts behind sending one¡¯s children on an early overseas education is that as a youngster, children tend to lose a grip on their mother tongue, in our case Korean, while picking up the host country¡¯s language. More often than not, these days it is easy to encounter people who cannot speak Korean fluently due to their residence in other foreign nations, even in the media there are numerous celebrities who now cross the Pacific to join the entertainment business.
Of course there is a difference between these stars and the young students in that many of the celebrities happen to be Korean-Americans who are uncomfortable with Korean in the first place. Yet, the young children who are sent abroad are likely to experience a similar situation, having not been nurtured enough to retain the rudimentary level of their mother tongue.
Moreover, since the ability to speak one¡¯s mother language is said to be an important basis for nurturing one¡¯s national identity, the previously mentioned problem could hinder the cultivation of national spirit. For instance, confused youngsters who have to face the challenge of sudden changes in their environment and culture may feel in-between, caught up in a dilemma and uncertain of their place in either of the societies.
On the flip side of the coin however, it is highly positive thing that early overseas education opens up the opportunity for one to learn a second language, surrounded by a more natural environment that will enhance both the fluency and proficiency. In actual fact, children are said to possess a brain structure that allows them to absorb up to seven different languages to the level of using them as a mother tongue. Thus, such a formula might be posited: the earlier a youngster is sent abroad, the higher the chance of acquiring an advanced level of the host country¡¯s language.
In addition to this prominent advantage, another noteworthy outcome of such opportunity in early childhood is that it positions one to receive the high quality education of a first-world country. This becomes a crucial factor since a significant proportion of Koreans display dissatisfaction with their current fluctuating education system so that it serves as a promising path in avoiding being one of the poor victims of such irresponsible educational framework.
The news coverage in November 2002, of a teenage girl committing suicide after taking the College Scholastic Aptitude Test (CSAT) has once again highlighted the notorious education obsession in Korea, as well as exposing the inevitable and unfortunate reality of Korea¡¯s brain drain overseas.
Having had the experience of receiving education abroad, I do have to admit that overseas study does have its positive dimensions and enriches one¡¯s academic and cultural background. Yet, at the same time, I question those parents who send their children without acknowledging the aforementioned consequences and the possible results, that the majority of those being sent experience a period of difficulty in their adolescence and are vulnerable to heading onto an undesired path.
Also, this sudden craze for overseas study should definitely not become a mere medium for obtaining a certain standard in a language. What we have to realize is that those stranded children are the future generation intellectuals that we cannot relinquish, and they will carry us into the future and be the pilots driving us forward in the competitive race at the international level.