In South Korea, the importance of learning English cannot be stressed enough. Whether applying for a job, university or government-funded program, chances are one will need an English score from a certified organization.
The status of the language is far beyond being just a lingua franca; it has become synonymous with the idea of globalization.
“I think Korean society is really advanced, and has really understood the importance of English,” said Zoubir Yazid, managing director of Educational Testing Service Global. “It is very proud about its roots, but it understands that to compete in the international world, you need English.”
Yazid stressed that in order for children to prepare themselves to become leaders in international society, they need to learn to communicate. The key is not just cramming knowledge into their heads, but being able to effectively convey one’s opinion to others.
“It is not how much English you know, it’s how you are able to communicate in English,” he said.
In a bid to help worldwide students foster the ability to communicate in English, ETS Global has run scholarship programs for university students since 2008. A total of $632,000 has been awarded to some 180 students around the world.
Yazid, however, said he and his team decided to expand further to aid younger students.
“Learning English is something you have to start early on. It is great to help university students but sometimes it may be too late. Some people need help early on,” he said.
This is where the significance of the ETS Global’s English Village lies, he said. This year’s English Village, which opened last Saturday and will end this Saturday, is aimed to help younger students with limited financial means study English.
Yazid said helping students study English is part of the organization’s “mission” to contribute to society.
“For ETS, the mission is part of our DNA. Through education and assessment, we try and help humanity as much as possible,” he said. The organization develops and organizes more than 50 million tests annually including the TOEFL, TOEIC, GRE and Praxis Series assessments.
But ETS Global’s contribution to society, he said, reaches beyond education.
One such way is through the “Pens for Success” project that seeks to provide simple writing tools to people in remote parts of the world who cannot afford them. Another is a “War Child Project” which is aimed to help children forced into war regain a normal life.
“You see these kids that just came out of war, and you see a smile on their face. There’s always hope with kids,” he said.
Contributions to society is also what ETS asks of students wanting to enter its scholarship programs. Yazid said ETS requires students to demonstrate how much they have helped society.
“I usually tell students ‘Don’t wait until somebody tells you to change the world. Go and change it,’” he said. “They are the future.”
By Yoon Min-sik