It has been reported that over 70% of all elementary, middle and high school students in Korea are required to take math courses, and there is concern over the fact that this is causing students to study more hours than is necessary, and not at school, but at private academies; human rights groups are calling this a violation of minors’ rights. On the 5th, the educational association ‘A World With No Worries of Private Education’ submitted the legislation proposal ‘Laws to Limit Prerequisite Education’, which covers new rules, regulations, and penalization conditions on the issue.
The proposal calls for the limitation of private education systems that teach more than what is taught in public education institutions. In the proposal, it was also written that these private institutions should be restricted from advertising or promoting their system of education. To look further into this issue and to oversee actual changes, the Committee for the Normalization and Improvement of the Educative System has been working alongside district education offices. One of its major actions has been to reward those who call in with information regarding clandestine private education institutions and their illegal activities of heavily teaching students coursework which has not yet been covered at school.
An enforcement ordinance which was submitted along with the legislation proposal also limits private institutions from teaching advanced math, science and social studies courses to children below middle school age.
Also, to stop young children from taking early extensive English courses, the legislation limits children under the age of 8 from taking more than 120 minutes worth of private English courses per week. It also forbids institutions from teaching adult English exam preparatory courses such as TOEIC and TOEFL to minors. Surprisingly, it is now a fairly common sight for children as young as 7 to 10 years old to be cramming extensively for English language level exams such as TOEIC and TOEFL, which have usually been associated with adults.
‘A World With No Worries of Private Education’ deputy minister Seung-hyun Kim commented “We hope that with this proposal, we will be able to bring people together to discuss this matter further, receive various feedback and to soon draw up a well-formed final plan.”
This proposal can be seen as a step forward in improving the South Korean public education system. The system has been heavily criticized in recent times for making people overly dependent on expensive and difficult private education, consisting mostly of ‘hagwon’ (cram schools) and ‘gwawae’ (private tutoring). Many of these ‘hagwon’ and ‘gwawae’ have been noted to be illegal institutions where they overwork students, abuse them using corporal punishment and teach more than what normal schools teach, making the latter irrelevant.