SEOUL, Nov. 27 (Korea Bizwire) — Starting next year, ‘hagwons’ or private educational institutes in Seoul may be obligated to close on Sundays.
The Committee to Encourage Public Debate on Hagwon Day-Offs on Sundays, comprised of students, parents, teachers, and local residents, recommended on Tuesday that the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (SMOE) implement the policy.
Cho Hee-yeon, the superintendent of the SMOE, is also known for his strong support for the policy, making it an official vow two times during his election campaign.
The social debate on obligating hagwons to shut down on Sundays began with a series of concerns that South Korean students never have time to rest as they depend on an excessive amount of private education, and that many parents are struggling with the heavy financial burden to send their children to hagwons.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare reported last August that 38 percent of 2,510 young South Koreans between the ages of 9 and 17 weren’t getting enough sleep.
Roughly 50 percent of those between the ages of 12 and 17 said they were sleep deprived, mainly because of private education and tutoring (45.7 percent).
“Even if they want their children to take a day off on Sunday, parents are always pressured to send them to hagwons because they don’t want them to lag behind others,” said Lee Yun-kyeong, head of the Parents Association for True Education Seoul Office.
Some parents, on the other hand, argue that it is outside of SMOE’s jurisdiction to decide whether to force hagwons to close on Sundays.
“Public education continues to lack in quality. It doesn’t solve the issue just by forcing hagwons to take a day off,” said one parent.
Even if hagwons in Seoul shut down on Sundays, other institutions in Gyeonggi Province and other areas outside of Seoul will still be able to stay open, which will only push parents to spend more time and money to send their children to schools outside of Seoul, some argue.
Also, taking a day off on Sundays may force students to cram even more on weekdays, which could impose a heavier study burden and encourage illegal tutoring.
“The policy, if carried out by legislation, will face difficulties due to its unconstitutionality. Even if it is carried out by city ordinance, it may easily be subject to suspension,” said Park Jong-deok, president of the Korea Association of Hagwons.
H. M. Kang (firstname.lastname@example.org)