South Korea cancels plan for cram school curfew

Thu May 21, 2009 8:18pm EDT
 
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By Jon Herskovitz and Kim Junghyun

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean children won't be getting that hoped for recess after all, now that the government has dropped plans for a 10 p.m. curfew on "cram schools" offering students an edge in a highly competitive education system.

South Korean teens are often in the classroom for 10-12 hours a day or more, preparing for university entrance exams that can determine if they will enter a top school leading to an elite career path.

Last year, about three out of four South Korean students received some form of private education after school hours. The money spent on cram schools and tutors totaled 20.9 trillion won ($16.75 billion), according to the National Statistical Office.

The education ministry, ruling party lawmakers, and cram school industry executives said the curfew would limit the freedom of choice of parents as well as local governments who should have autonomy in setting education policies.

Experts on adolescent development said late-night cram schools have no place in a healthy childhood.

"These late night classes for children and teenagers ... can lead to various problems, including a lack of sleep that decreases the effectiveness of learning while raising issues of mental health," said Woo Ok-yeong from Health Education Forum, a child advocacy organization.

SCHOOL'S OUT AT MIDNIGHT

The government has tried to cut down on the costs of private education by offering cram school-like classes after hours at public schools with tuition fees that might be less than half the costs of a formal cram school, called "hagwon" in Korean.   Continued...

 
<p>A South Korean student prays before taking her College Scholastic Ability Test in a file photo. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won</p>