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.
Photo by nyello8
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