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NZ: Korea’s exam-free term good for schools, says gov

A new policy set to overhaul the Korean education system is an opportunity to boost enrolments at New Zealand schools, Education New Zealand has urged.

Korean students in walk among New Zealand redwood trees. The Korean government introduced exam-free semesters to encourage students to focus on creative or physical activities instead. Photo: Anne Fisher.

In 2014, almost 1,400 students from Korea studied at New Zealand schools, down from 6,579 in 2007.

The programme exempts Korean middle school students from taking any exams for an entire semester while they focus on creative or physical activities instead.

Spending the exam-free semester at a school in New Zealand could appeal to families that wish to take advantage of New Zealand’s experiential learning curriculum, or those who want their children to have an intensive learning experience, such as developing their English language skills, ENZ has said.

“The style of learning being promoted in Korea through this programme is very similar to education delivery in New Zealand”

The Korean government introduced the exam-free semester programme in a bid to overhaul the education system, fostering more creative thinking and diverse learning activities.

“We are required to nurture creative talents through education, which can pull out students’ potential based on character education,” said President Park Geun-hye when the programme was announced three years ago.

“Only then will our students become happy and a creative economy be able to blossom.”

The policy was piloted in 2013 and rolls out to all 3,713 Korean middle schools (enrolling 12-13 year olds) this year.

Principals choose which semester will be exam free. The government has recommended that during this term students participate in activities outside of rote memorisation and preparing for university entrance.

Arts and physical education, club activities and career preparation are among the suggestions.

It has encouraged schools to take the programme into account when they are building their marketing strategies.

“New Zealand schools may therefore wish to reframe their marketing collateral for parents to demonstrate the strengths of their school’s programmes to deliver quality educational outcomes for Korean middle school students during these exam-free semesters,” ENZ said in statement earlier this month.

John van der Zwan, executive director of the Schools International Education Business Association of New Zealand agreed schools could benefit from the policy.

“The style of learning being promoted in Korea through this programme is very similar to education delivery in New Zealand and so there is a natural fit for us,” he said.

The policy also presents a chance for New Zealand schools to regain ground in a key student market said van der Zwan.

“I imagine that news of this programme is being well received by New Zealand schools who are currently attracting Korean students and will give them some confidence to now consider this as an opportunity to slow the decline from Korea,” he said.

In 2014, almost 1,400 students from Korea studied at New Zealand schools, down from 6,579 in 2007. “While the numbers have declined over recent years, Korea is still an important market for New Zealand schools, in particular intermediate and middle schools,” noted van der Zwan.

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