KulturImPuls

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Archive for August, 2013

The $4 Million Teacher – Hagwons in South Korea

Posted by juttajerlich on 4. August 2013

Referenced article http://online.wsj.com

This article has a few elements and arguments I was very happy to read about. Even better it would be if many other would be read the article and conclude that they are well worth thinking about.

“Tutoring services are growing all over the globe, Sometimes called shadow education systems, they mirror the mainstream system, offering after-hours classes in every subject—for a fee. But nowhere have they achieved the market penetration and sophistication of hagwons in South Korea, where private tutors now outnumber schoolteachers.”

From my own experience I got to know the ones in Japan, called Gakushū juku 学習塾 which have a similar status in society and among students. They are indispensable for many who do not succeed in passing the university entry exams which take place only one a year at the first try.

“Such a shadow education system is both exciting and troubling. Students essentially go to school twice—once during the day and then again at night at the tutoring academies. It is a relentless grind.”

“When attempting to look at the quality of education delivered it is surprisingly hard to answer this question. Research undertaken worldwide is suggesting that the quality of after-school lessons matters more than the quantity. Leading to the fact that the most affluent kids can afford one-on-one tutoring with the most popular instructors, while others attend inferior hagwons with huge class sizes and less reliable instruction—or after-hours sessions offered free by their public schools.”

“The really good teachers are hard to retain—and hard to manage. You need to protect their egos,” says Lee Chae-yun, who owns a chain of five hagwons in Seoul called Myungin Academy.

“Students are the customers,”

“In South Korea, if parents aren’t engaged, that is considered a failure of the educators, not the family.”

This is an interesting statement and here is how this works in Korea: “Once students enroll, the school embeds itself in families’ lives. Parents get text messages when their children arrive at the academies each afternoon; then they get another message relaying students’ progress. Two to three times a month, teachers call home with feedback. Every few months, the head of the school telephones, too.”

Performance surveys are conducted throughout the hagwon schools and by the Korean Educational Development Institute. Performance evaluations are typically based on following points, including questions asked and rated

  • number of students sign up for their class
  • students’ test-score growth
  • passion of the teacher
  • how well prepared is the teacher
  • respectfulness of students’ opinions
  • treating all students fairly

It has to be noted that the satisfaction surveys are given to students and parents.

“Policy makers and planners should…ask why parents are willing to invest considerable sums of money to supplement the schooling received from the mainstream,” he writes. “At least in some cultures, the private tutors are more adventurous and client-oriented.”

“The only solution is to improve public education,” says Mr. Kim, the millionaire teacher, echoing what the country’s education minister and dozens of other Korean educators told me. If parents trusted the system, the theory goes, they wouldn’t resort to paying high fees for extra tutoring.

“To create such trust, Mr. Kim suggests paying public-school teachers significantly more money according to their performance—as hagwons do. Then the profession could attract the most skilled, accomplished candidates, and parents would know that the best teachers were the ones in their children’s schools—not in the strip mall down the street.”

“No country has all the answers. But in an information-driven global economy, a few truths are becoming universal: Children need to know how to think critically in math, reading and science; they must be driven; and they must learn how to adapt, since they will be doing it all their lives. These demands require that schools change, too—or the free market may do it for them.”

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