With an increase in the demand for English proficiency tests, and the general emphasis on English in Korean society, private language institutes are attracting more and more university students. “Most of our students are university students and, except during the university exam periods, each class is comprised of about 30 students. It is hard to find empty seats in classes providing practice TOEIC and TOEFL exams,” said one staff member in a private language institute at Shinchon. Yet, college language institutes are having a hard time attracting students, despite their easily accessible locations and the financial assistance they receive from the universities.
The Ewha Language Center (ELC), which was founded in 1962, has been famous for its Korean language program for foreign students. Yet, other foreign language classes have a low numbers of students registering. According to a reference from the ELC, only 257 students took TOEIC and TOEFL classes at the ELC in the year 2007, only about 60 students per ten-week quarter which is far less than the center’s enrollment capacity.
The low number of students attending language institutes is not limited to Ewha. Yonsei Foreign Language Institute (YFLI) once offered 16 types of English courses. However, only eight remain, since the rest did not even attract seven or more students, which is the necessary number to open a class. Even most the classes that opened were three to five students short of 15, which is the enrollment limit, according to the posts on the YFLI homepage.
The International Language Institute of Hongik University also closed half of its English conversation classes in the winter semester of 2007, according to the post on the homepage of the language institute. In the spring semester of 2008, except for the beginning courses for Chinese, Japanese, French and German stayed open, but other intermediate and advanced courses had to be closed. Sungkyunkwan University similarly noticed students on the homepage that all of the language courses except for a number of English conversation class failed to collect the necessary number of applicants to open a class.
Students point to the cost of classes as the reason why university language institutes are losing students to private institutes. Kim Eun-hee (Mathematics, 2) said, “I could not feel a significant difference between classes at a private language institute and classes at the ELC when I took classes in both places. The books they use and teaching method of foreign teachers were almost the same, but the tuition at the ELC was more expensive.” One student at the YFLI said, “I have never seen a student take another course at the language institute after taking one there. Most of students there are high school graduates who want to experience university life before entering university.”
Even special courses offered by university language institutes are facing competitions from those at private language institutes. “There are lots of specialized courses at private institutes that concentrate on teaching writing and speaking skills in foreign languages through ways such as watching TV programs and listening to CNN. I took one of them and it helped a lot,” said Do Jung-yeon (Chinese Literature, 2). Most of the special courses provided in the YFLI this year, such as English for Job Preparation and Pop Culture, were also provided in private language institutes in Shinchon.
Nonetheless, Yoon Myung-hee, a staff member at the ELC, claimed that language institutes in universities can react to students’ needs and puts more emphasis on education than commercial purposes. “The ELC is located inside the campus, which means that we closely observe the kind of education Ewha students need. Private institutions often miss this part.” Song Young-sil (Industrial Design, 2), who took a course at ELC said, “I could trust the experience of the teachers because the university hired them. And I also liked the fact that only a small number of people were in a class, unlike at private institutes.”
“As students have difficulties taking required classes conducted in English at Ewha, the ELC is trying to strengthen its academic English courses. We will also improve job interview courses for seniors. The ELC exists for students needs and is trying to innovate and meet the needs of the students. I hope students become more interested in our classes,” said Yoon.
저작권자 © Ewha Voice 무단전재 및 재배포 금지