Koreans flock to Bay to gain edge

By Natalie Dixon

GROWING: Tauranga Education Consulting director Hyun Taek Yang says Tauranga is attracting a growing number of Korean students keen to come to the Bay to learn English.
GROWING: Tauranga Education Consulting director Hyun Taek Yang says Tauranga is attracting a growing number of Korean students keen to come to the Bay to learn English.

Tauranga is becoming New Zealand's city of choice for Korean families keen to give their children an advantage in English.

More than 100 Korean families are moving to the Bay each year to learn English, adding an estimated $6 million to the local economy and contributing $2 million to local schools each year, said Tauranga Education Consulting director Hyun Taek Yang.

He facilitates bringing families to the Bay and said they are attracted to Tauranga's education options, low cost of living and the natural environment.

"Tauranga is the best city in New Zealand, I think. The natural environment is beautiful and there are a lot of activities very close. The people are very kind and the schools are very good so it is becoming the obvious choice."

Koreans preferred Tauranga over Auckland because there were more English speaking people here, Mr Yang said.

"The other good thing about Tauranga is there are only around 500 Koreans living here, not like Auckland which is basically Little Korea. Here in Tauranga, international students really get involved with other children and they speak English much more than they do in other centres."

Mr Yang said the number of Korean international students had grown since the organisation started in 2005. While fathers stayed in Korea to work, mothers and children moved to the Bay for between a year and three to study.

"The ability to speak English is very important and parents will spend a lot of money on expensive after school tuition in Korea," he said. "A more cost-effective option is for the mothers and children to move to an English-speaking country like New Zealand and enrol in school."

Mr Yang said the expectation for the next generation in Korea was high and parents wanted to give their children the best chance of getting into a top university. Education in Korea focused on maths, science and English but students who came to New Zealand got the chance to enjoy other subjects like art, music and sport.

The Korean mothers attended English language classes, while the children were enrolled in schools like Otumoetai Intermediate, Tauranga Girls' College and Mount Maunganui High School at a cost of more than $10,000 a year per child.

But it's not the extra cash that is the attraction, according to Otumoetai Intermediate principal Principal Henk Popping.

"Having students from other parts of the world is about teaching our students about global connections and cultural exposure," he told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.

"At present we have about 19 international students and they are all Korean. We try to only have one student per classroom so they really get involved.

"Yes, they bring an extra income stream to schools which helps us buy up-to-date equipment but that is not why we do it, the experience is just as rewarding for our students as it is for the international ones. Everyone is learning about different cultures and it is a good eye opener."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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