Thursday, October 14, 2010

Public schools get a bad rap over the hagwons

Korean teachers know there's a high pressure on students to study but I hear there may be cutbacks in the public education system with their English programs...

Bad test scores

My co-teacher was in a panic last year when we found that 6th graders scored the lowest in the district. Our principal and vice principal weren't happy. The low scores didn't surprise me. Between the constant underestimation of students' abilities and the concern that our students are overburdened with family pressure and homework from hagwons, there was actually little challenge being inserted into the lessons. My 2nd and 3rd graders in the afterschool program learned more advanced stuff than what I got to teach my 6th graders! They got more culturally fun and fast material, while my material got constantly scrutinized and censored as "too fast, the kids won't be able to follow it".

Public schools get a bad rap over the hagwons

At the time when I mentioned giving our students homework, I was told, that we can't do that. Why? They were getting them from the hagwons and this was where the parents would prefer the students to get them. Perhaps its because parents dole out top dollar for private education that that's where all the focus is.  And maybe that's why there's never a lack of job positions at hagwons. The business of educating Korea through private lessons is thriving!

I hear word this sentiment is gaining rise today in Korea and that public education system is being discounted. But if the system continues to defer to the hagwons, then the schools shoot themselves in the foot.

Shoot for the moon and you're bound to hit a star. Shoot for the ground and you'd as well wish for dirt. 
That's where we were at back then. We were dirt.  The teaching sentiment with Korean teachers that I was around was-- shoot for the ground. Of course, I always aim higher for my kids despite what i'm told.

But challenge of the public school is having multi-level learners in one class; instead of separating students by skill level. And a bonus for hagwons is the external pressure and reinforcement they get from parents; with money being spent for accelerated performance, the child knows they need to take their studies seriously or get chewed out by their parents.

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