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The Vicious Cycle of the Preceding Study

Posted November. 29, 2004 23:01,   


Housewife Kim (43) was shocked when she visited ‘A’ hak-won located in Kang-nam with her daughter in 2nd grade of elementary school last year. A same age kid with her daughter who has been attending this hak-won since age six was solving second-year middle school level mathematical problems.

Kim said, “Feeling anxious, I sent my daughter to this hak-won for an year, then she received first place in a math competition. When we see a child way beyond his or her age, the parents can’t help but become uneasy.”

Currently, Park (40) is wondering whether to send her son, who is in second grade of elementary school, to an English hak-won. She only planned to make him take an English speaking class, but he was having a difficult time following the class since words such as impeccable and bewildered were given as homework.

The hak-won replied that “since there are parents who ask to prepare their children for the TOEIC or TOEFL, we have no other choice.”

Only few days before winter vacation, hak-wons, which are located in the private education heavy demand area such as Kang-nam in Seoul, Sanggyedong in Monkdong and Bundang in KyungKi, are currently busy recruiting new students for preceding study classes. There are always several hak-won advertising flyers wedged between the morning newspaper.

The hak-wons are advertising that “if you want to send your children to a foreign language high school or a science high school, it is even late to start in their third of fourth grade of elementary school” or “your children need to be ready for the academic aptitude test by the first year of high school.”

The Actual Conditions and Side Effects from the Preceding Study-

The dependency on private education will get worse due to the preceding study boom.

“K,” a teacher at “D” middle school located in Kang-nam, Seoul says, “In the beginning of the semester, the average score of English tests was in the 90s. The schoolbook is no help whatsoever, so I carry on the lecture with the copies made from an original edition English book.”

“P,” a teacher from “Y” middle school located in Song-pa-gu, Seoul, states, “There are lots of teachers who do not give out homework because of hak-won work. If we give out lots of homework, the parents start to complain about it.” In the “P” elementary school located in Seoul, there are two to three students in every sixth grade class who carry around the formula of mathematics book, which is a reference book for high school math. “C” teacher says, “Even these students study inattentively and have bad class behavior. There are many times when they miss a simple mathematical problem.”

Since most hakwons are leaning towards preceding study to their students, it is hard to find hak-wons whose curriculum follows that of the school curriculum.

Lee (15), in his third year in “S” middle school, who has currently been accepted to a foreign language high school, said, “The class environment is not good because there are many low ranking students. Most high rank students are about one and a half years ahead in their studies.”

Is Preceding Study Effective?-

“H,” a student in his second year in “J” middle school located in Kang-nam, Seoul, is learning first year high school math in a math hak-won. “H” student says, “Due to preceding study, after I entered middle school, I have always received 100 in all the math tests. One can maintain good grades in school by learning materials ahead.”

However, excluding some cases, some point out that is hard to maintain the effect of preceding study till the student enters college.

“K” teacher from “C” high school in Seoul stated, “There are a lot of students who have lavish records of winning prizes in various competitions since they have learned ahead the high school materials while they were in middle school. However, there are several students whose grades are heading downwards during the second or third year of high school.”

Yoo JaeBong, (education) Professor of Sungkyunkwan University, indicates that “The side-effect of regarding the school work as boring even though the student doesn’t completely understand the contents from preceding study is becoming serious.”

Na-Yeon Lee Hyo-Lim Son larosa@donga.com aryssong@donga.com