24-hour hagwons?

Hagwons (학원) are private cram schools that are oh-so-ubiquitous in South Korea. Almost every student in Korea, from elementary to middle and high schools, attend private classes after their regular schools. Some start their classes as early as 5 o’clock in the morning and ends at 11 in the evening. Most of these classes are for English, advanced Math, Korean, History, and some are for special classes like Music, Arts and TaeKwonDo. My husband’s eldest niece, who is just eleven years old, has been attending private schools since she was five! Now that she’s in middle school, she attends classes from 8 o’clock in the morning until 10 at night. At home, she still has to study online. They also have regular school classes every other Saturday and attends private school even on Sundays. They don’t spend their summer and winter vacations doing nothing either. They also have private classes during that time. I’m sounding so redundant!
What I’m trying to say is, I don’t know about the Japanese but Korean students study for so many hours. I wonder how they could fit “cyworld” and “starcraft” into their very hectic schedules! And to think that there are talks the Seoul city government is planning to deregulate hagwons. Many parents are afraid that they might run for 24 hours and will further stress the kids. Come to think of it, why do parents and teachers put up with this culture. They seriously need better parenting advice. I’m a parent too and my son will most likely attend high school in Korea. However, I want him to experience the joy of high school and not just the boring, tedious part of it. After all, I don’t believe that you have to study 20 hours a day to be successful.


  1. You do not, it is counterproductive, in fact. There was a documentary about kids in the Netherlands consistently performing the best worldwide in almost every subject for something like over the past 17 years.
    They could not find what special thing they did until they looked at what they DIDN’T do: there were no music bands, there were no afterschool clubs. there wasn’t anything that demanded more of the child’s time. Instead, children learned to fill their free time with their interests, and it seems to positively enforce their performance in school.
    In addition, students who perform better are not put ahead of students who perform worse. They actually helped each other, and this reinforced the material in both types of students.
    So you have the musically talented, the math-oriented, everything you find at other countries and schools, but they do it by choice, not by confinement.

  2. i read a book last year ‘the koreans’ and which touched briefly on the korean system of education. the author noted that after high school, students tend to relax and just coast along in college. colleges/universities are not as rigid as high schools in korea as a result of which, they are not rated high internationally. they tend to be more relaxed toward college students since they underwent rigid entrance examination and cannot just be kicked out when they don’t do well. they don’t want efforts in passing entrance examinations go to waste. the author even further commented that koreans don’t do well in research, in thesis, in expressing themselves. is this the one of the reasons why more and more koreans are flocking to manila’s exclusive schools. last year, i attended the graduation of my niece at st. paul’s pasig. it was a grade school graduation and yet there were so many korean sounding names in th elist of graduates some of them even with honors. my niece told me that there’s even a whole section comprising of kstudents. at the ateneo, la salle and even u.p., th enumber of k students is really burgeoning.by the way, since you intend to let your son go to school there, is the practice of hitting students by teachers still going on? i really cringe whenever i see this practice on korean dramas and movies.

  3. @AzureWolf – S. Korea was number 2, just behind Finland, two years ago on Math and Science aptitude tests… last year, they were number 17… when my husband and i told our family that we will not send our son to private schools, their reaction was like “are you fools?”… it’s because they think he might be a “wangta” or outsider since almost every parent who could afford it sends their children to cram schools…
    @ellen – that is so true! university students don’t study as hard as they did in high school… afaik, there is no “failing” system here like we have back home… you could do really bad on a test and yet still get promoted to the next level even if you just attend the minimum required school days… that’s why you’ll see korean students vacationing in the middle of the term (just like my husband’s niece who went to the philippines for a vacation in October!)… as for Koreans not doing well in expressing themselves, it’s probably because they’re not allowed to 😉 the tests here are mostly multiple choice… and culturally, when an elderly tells you something, you don’t argue with them… you just say “ne” or “ye”… afaik, corporal punishment still exists here but probably not in the same way a few years ago… students have wisened up and has been taking videos through their phones whenever a teacher punishes a student violently… my husband and i are thinking of sending our child to grade school followed by homeschooling later… but it’s still just a plan… he thinks regular school is a waste of time

  4. I’m currently teaching in “hagwon”, and I’m telling you my students go to public school at 8-4pm then come to hagwon at 5-12:30am. I’m teaching untill 11pm but I wasn’t their last period. It’s kinda stressful also for me coz I really have to make the lesson interactive since I’m dealing with tired, hungry, sleepy students.And these are just middle school students, high School studes have more hectic sched, like till 3am.

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