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   New plans to tackle hagwon expenditure
   3767    2009-03-13
Source : Joongang Daily

February 28, 2009

The government has outlined further measures aimed at reducing the vast sums families spend on private education in response to figures released yesterday that the amount spent on tutoring increased in 2008 despite the severity of the economic downturn.

In a survey of 34,000 parents by the National Statistical Office, last year’s household spending on private education rose 4.3 percent to 20.9 trillion won ($13.6 billion) from the year before, the office said yesterday.

In response, the Education Ministry plans to provide 300 select schools that are making progress in reviving public schooling with 200 million won ($130,293) each this year.

It will increase the number of targeted schools to 500 by 2010 and 1,000 by 2012, the ministry said. Targeted schools will be chosen based on their current and future programs.

In addition, schools, principals, teachers and local education offices will be rewarded for their contributions to revitalizing education with financial incentives and professional awards, and students will be encouraged to choose classes based on their own aptitude, a move meant to provide instruction tailored to different ability groups.

Currently, students with higher grades tend to take more advanced courses at hagwon, or private learning centers, while those with lower grades go to hagwon to prop up their studies at school.

The change will apply to freshmen at middle and high schools this year and sophomores next year.

To support English education, the ministry will utilize Internet protocol television services to offer English learning programs at elementary and middle schools.

The ministry will also hire intern teachers to assist underachievers at 1,214 schools where failing students are concentrated.

The schools will be selected based on the results of the national academic assessment exam taken last October.

This is the second round of announcements after the ministry laid out last October a set of plans to cut private education expenditure for low-income households.

The policies have been put in place to counter rapidly growing private schooling expenditure, which has risen from 10.7 trillion won in 2001 to 20 trillion won in 2007, according to data collected by the National Statistical Office.

The spending per child grew 5 percent to 233,000 won last year, from 222,000 won in 2007, the office reported.

Private spending on English instruction seems to be the main burden for parents. They spend more money for English education than any other subject.

Individual spending on English jumped 11.8 percent to 76,000 won last year from a year ago, faster than other subjects, the office said.

In addition, the number of elementary and middle school students taking English proficiency tests such as the Toefl soared 58.5 percent to 220,673 in 2007 from 139,197 in 2006.

The increase is attributed to English education fever, a byproduct of globalization, and to higher fees charged by hagwon. “The government policy to strengthen English education at schools is partly accountable for the rise in the English education spending,” said Yang Sung-gwang, a director of the ministry’s human policy department.

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