Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"After School Program" in Korean Schools

Since I have had some experience teaching in the after school program in Korea I read with interest the recent editorial in the Chosun Daily. The after school program tries to save the parents some money by helping the students at the school with some of the subjects that the parents feel necessary to prepare for the National Exams. This is a very praiseworthy effort and certainly should be continued but at the same time efforts should be made to improve the teaching during the regular hours of class.

The Government has set aside about 350 thousand dollars for 400 schools for a period of 3 years starting in July, for schools not using private institutions for educational purposes. The money will go to help hire teachers for the program, enable teachers with incentives, work with the capabilities of the students and tailor the programs to the different students needs. The programs in the school differ from the academies in that they do not have to rent space and can run the programs inexpensively. In programs that they have monitored they can teach in after school programs for 20 hours a month and do it for half the price of the cheapest academies.

One of the benefits of the after school program is that it is elected and they can take the students where they are in their studies and work from there. It could be more efficient and the teachers more zealously involved. The academies are often called cram schools which give you an idea of what they are hoping to achieve.

The parents in Korea take the studies of the children extremely serious. They do not have the number of children that their parents had and they know that the studies are going to determine what schools they can attend and their future. The parents here in Korea are said to spend four times the amount of money for outside school studies than those in the economies of similar countries. Part of the reason for this is the lack of confidence in the school system. We have parents sending their children overseas with the mother for education and the father remains here in Korea to earn the money for them. These are called wild geese fathers for they are reunited with the family, if the funds allow, once a year. There are also over a 100,000 Korean students studying in the United States which outnumbers any other foreign student group. These are signs that the parents do not have confidence in the Korean school system.

I learned in my few years in the program that there was need for accountability. The teachers should be graded for their abilities and helped to be more effective. They can do much better with the regular school programs and use the after school programs as a supplement. Competition would also help improve the quality of the teaching. The government can spend a great deal of money on all kinds of programs but if the teachers are not qualified than you will not get the results. When one talks about accountability nobody wants it. It is a big burden on all that are involved but a very necessary part of getting a quality product.

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