Sunday, February 22, 2009

Korean parents' currency woes

Korean parents' currency woes
Mon, Feb 23, 2009

The past year has seen the Korean won weakening by more than 30 per cent against the Singapore dollar. According to a report in Lianhe Wanbao, this has led many Korean parents to pull their children out of schools here.

When interviewed by Wanbao's reporters, Ms Kim, 38, revealed that many Korean parents have been feeling the financial strain of sending their children to schools here, especially since the middle of last year when the won first began its downward slide.

Korean student market to grow

Private higher-education institutions in Singapore have expressed optimism about the Korean student market here.

They believe the market still has room for expansion, as the trend for Koreans to study locally has only started within the last two years.

One such private school which Wanbao spoke to, the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS), says its Korean student population has been growing.

Their numbers have increased in the last year even amid the economic downturn, although the rate of growth has slowed.

The school currently has more than 100 students enrolled in its courses.

Private institutions which Wanbao interviewed say they have not witnessed cases of Korean students dropping out due to financial difficulties.

According to statistics, foreign students who study in Singapore have to spend about $20,000 to $24,000 a year.

Ms Kim, who came to Singapore a year ago with her eight-year-old son, revealed that up to half of her circle of friends here have already left for their home country.

Another 30 per cent are expected to leave by the end of this year.

She said: " In order for their kids to get a foundation in the Chinese language, many parents have sent them to study here since they were in primary school.

"They would usually stay for two to three years before going back to Korea. However, due to the poor exchange rate recently, many have decided to make the move back earlier."

As for Ms Kim, she too, will be returning to Korea with her son. Her plan was for her son to study in Singapore for only a year, and the year has come to a close.

She told reporters that they would be catching their flight back on Feb 20.

Monthly costs here run up to $5,000

In her interview, Ms Kim also revealed that Korean mothers living in Singapore with their child like herself, would usually incur a monthly expense of S$5,000.

This translates to about 4.9 million won per month. Just 14 months ago, the same amount would only come up to about 3.2 million won.

Expenses include the rental of an apartment in a 'good neighbourhood' for safety reasons, other living expenses, as well as monthly school fees of about S$120.

In comparison, parents could save much more by letting their child study in Korea.

Education in Korea is free for local students, and if parents do not send their children for too many tuition classes, families would only spend about 2 to 3 million won monthly.

Prepared to sell her house if she has to

Some parents however, are willing to go to great lengths to ensure that their child continues to get an education here.

One such parent, Korean-born Chinese Ms Zhang Xiu Lan, 46, said : "Although costs are rising in Singapore, but I can't give up on my children's education for that reason. I will continue to let them study here even if it means I have to sell our house."

Ms Zhang, who has two sons studying in a secondary school and polytechnic here, continued: "We have been in Singapore for almost 4 years, it will not be easy for my kids to suddenly make the switch and attend classes in Korean back home."

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