Foreign Language Study by Korean High School Students Declines

From Yonhap News Agency, April 10, 2011:

The number of South Korean high school students choosing to study a second foreign language fell sharply last year, after education authorities decided it was no longer required, government data showed Sunday.

According to data released by the state-run Korean Educational Development Institute, the number of high school students learning a second foreign language totaled 596,044 as of April 2010, marking a drop of 16.8 percent, or 120,939, from 716,983 in the previous year.

The number of second foreign language classes at high schools nationwide also fell 11.2 percent to 18,554, the data found.

The dive in popularity for a second foreign language has come after the government adjusted high school curricula in 2009 to put more emphasis on the study of English, Korean language and math. Learning a second foreign language was compulsory until 2009.

By language, the number of students who chose German as a second foreign language marked the steepest 26.9 percent fall from 29,881 to 21,841, according to the data.

Students of Spanish also fell 25.4 percent, followed by French (18.6 percent), Japanese (17.5 percent), Chinese (13.3 percent) and Russian (5.6 percent), they said.

“Under the revised high school curricula, the study of a second foreign language could eventually disappear from local secondary schools,” said Kwon Oh-hyun, a German language professor at Seoul National University.

“Such a phenomenon runs counter to the growing importance of a second foreign language in this era of globalization,” Kwon said, calling on the government to devise proper countermeasures.

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