The Newsletter 56 Spring 2011

The policies on supplemental education in Korea: A tug-of-war between government and market

Jin Lee

\"Children complain that school teachers are ineffective in comparison to instructors at supplemental education institutions who teach in an engaging and interesting manner… Students do not have high expectations of teachers and schools… While school is a place to sleep, “hagwon” is a place to learn… Schools do not take responsibility for their students. Supplemental education is not the problem; so called “failing” or “failed” schools that push students into markets for supplemental education is the bigger problem\" (Jin Lee). Blaming public education for many social woes is becoming a habit in many nations throughout the world. Although Korea has ranked highly on international achievement tests such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, when examined more closely, maybe this is the result of parents’ tremendous education zeal and investment, not of public education. Dependence on markets for supplemental education is growing as parents are becoming more dissatisfied and frustrated with schools. In this context, what the Korean government can and should do is to either let schools outperform the market for supplemental education or let public education embrace the market.

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