According to a report by the National Institute for International Education submitted to Rep. Ahn Min-suk of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, an average of 63 foreign students benefiting from the government’s sponsorship program each year discontinued their studies and went back to their countries from 2011 through this August.
Out of 2,186 students on the scholarship program during the 2011-15 period, 270 of them were not able to receive a degree, with the number of such students increasing every year.
The biggest reason behind the students quitting their studies was family affairs, followed by health problems, language barriers, failure to adapt to studying in Korea and poor academic performance.
A 28-year-old foreign student, who asked not to be named, said that most of the problems arise from foreign students who are not familiar with Korean culture, especially the strict, competitive educational environment here.
“I can see the government trying to help us, but some of my friends return to their countries due to problems with host universities,” he told The Korea Herald.
“For example, we often have disagreements with our labs over working hours and conditions,“ said the South American, who is required to stay for 12 hours in his university lab every day. ”We often found it difficult to cope with the strict, competitive educational environment here pressuring us to study and work long hours.“
Another student from Africa also added that Korean universities are not ”open-minded“ enough to embrace foreign students here.
”I saw some friends having been refused from attending certain classes just because they were foreigners,“ he said. ”It will help us a lot to adjust to the new environment if Korean teachers and students are a bit more fluent in English and open-minded to us.“
The lawmaker Ahn said that behind the problem was the lack of systematic support for the foreign students to help them adapt to the Korean environment and culture. He called for a more comprehensive monitoring system to look after the government-sponsored students.
The Korean government has stepped up efforts to attract foreign students in recent years through the sponsorship program.
Under the scheme, authorities offer the selected students a yearlong Korean language course, a full scholarship and living expenses until they finish earning their degrees at Korean universities.
The number of the students sponsored by the Korean government surged from 422 in 2012 to 887 last year, with the government‘s plan to receive as many as 200,000 foreign students by 2023.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org)