Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cram School Rush Hour

I met up with some Fairfax County School officials in late October in Daechi-dong, one of the city's famed hot spots for hagwons. The DC-area educators were in town for an education conference and they wanted to see a real "cram school" ghetto during their stay. There are many such neighborhoods in Seoul.

We shivered outside in the dark at 10 p.m. and watched as a virtually deserted sidewalk came alive with crowds of teenagers pouring out from high rise office buildings loaded with tutoring centers. Many wore sweatshirts over their dark blue school uniforms and texted on their smart phones while wandering down the street.

Estimates vary but some show up to 75 percent of students in Korea attend private schools after their regular school day to improve their math or science grades, to learn English, to prep for the college entrance exam.  There are cram schools for sports or violin, for building with legos, for english proficiency exams, for the civil service exam or any exam you can think of.

The government is waging a war against them, trying to crack down on how much money they charge and how late they go. 10 p.m. is cut-off time now; many used to go much later (some still do.)

Here's Fairfax School Board member Ilryong Moon describing the scene.

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