Relocating to Busan

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jeos2012
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Joined: 01/25/2012 - 00:12
Relocating to Busan

Hello...

I have a question for expat families and parents out there in the Busan area.  My company is expanding into Korea and relocating me to the Busan area to manage the branch.  I have two children, who are currently in 1st grade and Kindergarten, in the United States.  I'm familiar with the Korean age system and realize that my older one's peers are just getting ready to start first grade in a month or two, and the younger one's peers getting ready for K7, in the Korean preschool/kindergarten system. 

My question is this.  I had lived in Korea earlier in my life but my children were much younger and the playroom/nursery school in my apartment complex was enough.  Now, they are older and obviously, the older one needs to be in elementary school.  They speak Korean pretty well but can't read or write (mom's Korean).  I know how intense Korean education can be and realize that if they are shoved into a regular elementary school, they could struggle to keep up.  I also am aware of some of the foreigner/international schools as options but financially, just looking online at the tuitions and fees, I'm not sure if that is even feasible...might be, but going to take some planning.

I was just wondering if anyone had any ideas or suggestions for schooling.  Thank you in advance for those that share some insight.

jeos2012
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Joined: 01/25/2012 - 00:12
Re: Relocating to Busan

Anyone?  Thanks for your time...

Rutherford
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Joined: 11/26/2009 - 16:01
Re: Relocating to Busan

Hello,

I'm not a parent but I've taught in an elementary school here for a few years so I'll give you my perspective.  

I wouldn't worry too much about your children adapting academically.  Education for kindergarten and early elementary students is only as intense as parents choose to make it.  There will be kids spending hours in hogwans already, but it's not necessary, especially as your kids will not be struggling with English if you do a good job of speaking / reading English with them at home.  The pressure and testing starts in later grades of elementary school and then picks up dramatically in middle and high school.  Your children are at an age where learning a language they will be completely immersed in will happen quickly and naturally if you don't make it a big issue that they are "behind".  Make sure their teachers understand this as well.

I would be much more worried about how they will adapt socially, especially your older kid.  Korean schools are much different socially than most N. American ones.  Bullying is a real problem and kids who aren't normal Koreans will be an easy target.  The general behavior of students here is different as well and kids at that age constantly hit each other, yell, and poke each other in the privates (mostly just the boys do this).  

You should consider two things when making this decision.  How long will your kids be living here?  If it's only a year or two it might not be worth putting them through such a change.  How resilient are they?  If they are outgoing and assertive among other kids they will probably have an easier time than if they are shy and sensitive.

 

jeos2012
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Joined: 01/25/2012 - 00:12
Re: Relocating to Busan

Rutherford,

Thank you for your insight.  As a former teacher of several years in Korea, I'm somewhat familiar with some of the things that you've mentioend.  Not sure they're overly outgoing or overly timid.  They're quick to make friends and adjust to new settings pretty well.  My wife really worries because she hears about the levels of math and whatever else her friends' kids are up to in comparison to what is taught here in schools, and the lag that may exist upon arrival.  I'm pretty sure, though their conversational abilities and pronounciations are perfect, some Korean kids could actually be on a higher level in reading and writing. 

I guess my question is if anyone has the experience of sending kids who are limited in their Korean and possibly coming from a different educational background, who had to adapt to schooling in Korea, and what suggestions those people may have.

I really appreciate your comment, though.  Thanks again.

haeundaechris
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Joined: 10/11/2011 - 13:06
Re: Relocating to Busan

The best option would be the international school in Song Jong, on the road to Kijang.  This is school is well managed and the students and teachers are generally great, for foreigners this is the best and really only option.  Korean schools are generally not well managed, there are many bad students there and the quality of the teachers is not great by and large.   The teachers are extremely overworked and the quality of education is low so parents rely on hogwons.   I would advise the international school, your company should pay.   Some international children have done well in the Korean education system but most have had negative experiences.

jakerue
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Joined: 09/24/2009 - 17:35
Re: Relocating to Busan

 

haeundaechris isn't exactly right about there being only one option in Busan for foreign students.  Busan Foreign School also exists alongside Busan International Foreign School and is closer to Haeundae.  It has many foreign students from the US, Canada, Russia, Japan, China, France, etc.  BFS is not perfect but no school is.  Academically it is a strong school and has great teachers there along with a small school feel.  

haeundaechris is right that your company should pay.  If they don't/can't then I'd get an appointment at the schools and talk to the admins about your situation.  

Either way, if you're worried about putting your kids in Korean schools there are other options.  I would definetly check out both schools and see which one works best for you and your family.

haeundaemum
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Joined: 01/27/2012 - 10:30
Re: Relocating to Busan

I have 2 children, one is in Elementary and attends BFS at Haeundae (American system) and one is in High School at BIFS in Gijang (International system). I have a preference for the Elementary curriculum and style at BFS. Although most children at the school are ethinically Korean, English is the language all children must speak on campus and most have been educated abroad for atleast a part of their life. It doesn't feel like a 'Korean' school. My child, for the most part, has no problems and is very obviously European! My point is don't discount BFS as a 'foreign' school just because the children aren't obviously 'international'. As already said BFS does have a small village school type feel. The fees for both schools are prohibitively high, given the lack of choice as Foreign parents in Korea. Not all companies pay, our doesn't! In our experience BFS are more flexible when is comes to payment of fees and offer a quarterly scheme. Maybe their flexibility extends beyond that? I would have said it was worth an enquiry. BIFS have offered no flexiblity in our experience and require payment twice yearly along with the school bus and school meals if you chooses. Plus the compulsory expensive sports kit even for the younger children. Sometimes it is the extras that tip the scales. At the end of the day both schools are way too expensive but its either that or split the family up! Or in your case try out the Korean school, you never know? Best of luck to your and your's.

Expatparent
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Joined: 01/27/2012 - 14:51
Re: Relocating to Busan

I have two children (one in elementary and one in middle school) who attend the international school in Gijang.  After 18 months, I am still totally disappointed with the standard of teaching, the behaviour of the pupils and the total lack of pastoral care.  Dont be fooled by the website. To add insult to injury the fees are ridiculously high and the powers that be charge anything they like because the majority of the children are having their fees paid by the company.  This is not the case with us.  Paying school fees is not new to us and the fees here are way above that of other international schools in Asia or in many home countries.  The standard of education has been key in our decision to return to our home country because our children will have some serious catching up to do as they are at the key stages in their education.  We are so unhappy that we looked into changing to the other international school because it appears to be more organised, professional and more academically challenging for my children.  We changed our minds at the very last minute because our time here is short and would have meant one too many moves for our children and thought it too disruptive.  

Your children are a lot younger than mine so maybe your experience will be very different.  In my opinion if you moved here then the children would be better off in a Korean school.  However, I know that mixed children are victimised and have had awful experiences at Korean schools.  I must add that so have my children at the international school.

Good luck with your decision making.

jeos2012
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Joined: 01/25/2012 - 00:12
Re: Relocating to Busan

Thanks to everyone for their great insight.

I welcome any more ideas from those willing to take a second to chime in.

Thanks again for your suggestions, guys!  Big help!