“In that sense, subject areas like science and engineering may see some drop in international enrolments compared to humanities and liberal arts,” says South Korean Ambassador His Excellency Shin Bong-kil. The ongoing pandemic has also led to innovations and increased the role of technology in making international education more accessible to global students, he adds. “It is said that innovation and creativity often thrive in a crisis. COVID-19 has prompted educational institutions to innovate in their own little way to adapt to the new situation. This has given rise to the online teaching model. This enables students to pursue international educational courses from their home country without having to travel abroad thus enabling students with modest means who cannot afford the cost of in-campus study abroad to join international education,” Shin Bong-kil told Education Times.
India-South Korea ties
Despite the pandemic, Korea and India have managed to minimise its adverse effects on bilateral cooperation in the higher education sector. This year, the Korean government granted scholarship to some 50 Indian students to join master’s and PhD programmes, excluding undergraduate programme, up from 17 last year.“The embassy took special care in issuing timely visa to all the successful candidates. Thanks to these efforts, some 40 Indian students have entered Korea this August to start their studies. Very few students gave up their scholarship because of COVID-19 and only three students requested to defer their departure as their final exams for bachelor’s degree have been delayed,” adds the Ambassador.
Impact of travel restrictions
South Korea does not see travel restrictions as a major hurdle. “It is a temporary measure to fight COVID and will gradually be eased. Even though the scheduled flights between the two countries stands suspended as of now, we have been operating special flights since April. A total of 23 special flights have facilitated the travel of Indian students,” he adds. Currently, both the countries are negotiating an air bubble agreement, once this agreement is finalised, both India and Korea will be able to operate to and fro flights with some restrictions.
The new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has paved the way for the top 100 foreign universities to set up operations in India. He believes that Korean universities such as SNU, KAIST, Korea University, POSTECH, Yonsei University and Sungkyunwan University will set up their campuses in India and likewise, prestigious Indian universities can open their campuses in Korea, boosting educational cooperation between the two countries. With the addition of Korean language as one of the foreign languages at the secondary level, the government is ready to support Korean language education in India. Towards this, a Korean Education Center will be set up sometime next year in Delhi. Additionally, discussion with the Ministry of Education is also underway to launch a joint education programme in order to train Indian people to teach the Korean language in schools.
Realising that there will be a spurt in demand for Korean language teachers in India, the Korean Cultural Center has already started an online language teacher training course. Students learning the Korean language can hope to have a bright future. There are more than 700 Korean companies doing business in India, says the ambassador.
“Indian students learning the language stand a better chance to get gainful employment in Korean companies. Further, there are also opportunities for Indians proficient in the language to join Korean multinationals in other countries in managerial positions,” he adds.
In these trying times, the first and the foremost duty of universities is to ensure the health and safety of students. To this end, almost all Korean universities have embraced online learning as the new mantra and are putting in place plans and systems so that students do not lose one full academic year.To provide safe and secure study environment to all international students, Korean government and universities are offering free COIVD test, treatment, self-quarantine requirements, routine disinfection etc.