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South Koreans Want Saturday Classes

South Koreans Want Saturday Classes
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In June, the South Korean government recommended that schools eliminate Saturday classes: Since the 1950s, students have had four-hour classes on two Saturdays a month. President Lee Myung Bak has said that he wants to “wean the school system off its obsession with standardized tests” and give South Koreans more “family time.” But a number of mothers have objected to the change, saying that, rather than allowing children more “playtime,” no more Saturday classes will mean that parents spend more on private tutoring at “cram school” operators with names like MegaStudy, says Business Week:

“If private institutions expand Saturday classes, I’ll definitely send my son,” says Kim Hyeran, who pays $2,800 per month for out-of-school classes for her 13-year-old, including as much as 20 hours of math. The Kim family, like the Chungs, live in Seoul’s Gangnam district, renowned in Korea for its specialized schools and private academies.

Three out of four South Korean parents send their children to cram schools or pay for private tutoring or online courses.

It’s all part of a drive to get ahead and stay on top that may have created the “least happy children in the developed world” as Al Jazeera puts it, but has produced results: Students from East Asia hold the top five slots in the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development’s assessment of reading, math and science skills. US students are ranked 30th in math, 23rd in science, and 17th in reading. Business Week points out that President Barack Obama has particularly noted “South Koreans’ zeal as an example of the need for American kids to study harder to compete.”

The South Korean mothers’ push for more having their children in class longer is in striking contrast to what’s going on now in the US.

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24 comments

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3:36PM PDT on Aug 24, 2011

asian kids and crammed kids r pushed too hard, we need to follow the kindergarten system more, which concentrates on prep 4 school til 6yrs old with social skills being v important and needing co operation of kids with each other-all inclusive education not only 4 the IQ gifted. we live in a multicultural society with many gifts...we should learn from the cradle to empathise with all...global co operation is more crucial and valuable than competition...I am a teacher and mother in the UK.

12:31PM PDT on Aug 19, 2011

What about us? Our kids are very smart. Still most of them may fail Math tests conducted in Europe or in Asian countries. This is because of easy curriculum they are offered at school here. Parents need to take Math education in their hand, and offer curriculum like Saxon or Tutorteddy at an early age. Spread the word, and save America.

11:27PM PDT on Aug 18, 2011

America has one of the best education qualities in the world. Its system is fair and balanced to all who wanted to achieve something out of it. Many universities in Asia and Europe only allow smart and competitive students to have a college education and beyond. Many students even though are smart but are not innovative enough. Look at people are Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and many others...they do not finish college and yet look what they have achieve today. Another thing is that many parents and teachers want their children to think about Ivy League education but its not necessarily that Ivy League are good schools...there are many others who went to State universities and still able to achieve something out.

9:33PM PDT on Aug 17, 2011

(Sigh) More stupid comments glorifying education in Asia from uninformed Americans. Do you really want to be a student in Korea? You think the kids WANT to study from 8:30 AM to 11:30 PM? You think they LIKE having their imaginations usurped by the time they are seven? You think they enjoy having no playtime, hobbies, or social skills because their entire life consists of going to school and doing homework, just so they can go to a reputable university (where they completely can finally slack off cheat on exams with little or no repercussions)? If you want a mad education system that breeds automatons who will become alcoholic stress machines, you will first have to overpopulate the country then convince your children that farming and blue-collar jobs are bad, and that if they want to be successful they must be the next CEO for Samsung.

3:45PM PDT on Aug 17, 2011

n this is why our educational system is going down the drain. Kids from Asia and Europe are more willing to learn than the kids here. I guess they start teaching them algebra at age 2 n by the time they're 13 they know calculus!

3:38PM PDT on Aug 17, 2011

Very different culture and different philosophy about school and education.
I'm almost tempted to learn Korean and go there.

Thank you for the post.

12:10PM PDT on Aug 17, 2011

True, education is necessary, but having your children in schools for too long leads to burnout syndrome. I have some Japanese friends who attended cram schools and they all hated it. They were really pushed to the limit. School is necessary, but a lot of school can be very detrimental.

8:32AM PDT on Aug 17, 2011

Very happy kids?! I don't think so...

6:27AM PDT on Aug 17, 2011

Thanks for posting.

2:24AM PDT on Aug 17, 2011

Interesting! Thanks.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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