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Cram Schools Skirting Regulations to Earn More

Posted February. 24, 2009 04:47,   


Students of a cram school in Seoul’s Noryangjin district pay 10,000 won (6.70 U.S. dollars) for a trial examination every month.

The district’s educational office said the proper price for such a test is 3,930 won (2.6 dollars), but cannot take action against cram school since it is following laws governing tuition rates. Certain cram schools collect tuition far larger than the preset level through creative measures.

For example, the schools set the legal prices for English classes but intentionally add conversation classes with native English speakers and those on English listening to generate more profit. The measures are similar to the “salami” technique used by doctors to pump up their publications.

When considering expenses for teaching materials, data processing, grading and trial tests, the tuition paid by many students is more than double the legal limit.

The Education, Science and Technology Ministry announced Sunday that it will revise the law on setting up and operating a private cram school and related ordinances. In short, the ministry plans to eradicate bad practices and consider the sum of all expenses as tuition.

Experts, however, say the government needs effective measures to prevent private cram schools from making bad use of the tuition amount ceiling.

One prime example is to divide a class into several sub-classes based on the “salami” technique, referring to the division of an article into several smaller ones.

In other words, a student takes a math lesson from a teacher but he appears to listen to several lessons on sets, differentiation and statistics on paper.

Even when the educational office sets the maximum price for each class at 100,000 won (67.3 dollars), a private education institute can receive 300,000 won (201.8 dollars) from a student by manipulating documents to show the student takes three lessons.

Similarly, other cram schools falsely report that students who take only a Korean lesson listen to a comprehensive class including Korean, English, math and other subjects.

An official at the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said, “It’s hard to find out which cram schools abuse regulations since most of these cases have appeared at small- and mid-size cram schools. Many students also take sides with cram schools instead of telling the truth.”

Many large cram school chains are also engaged in “tie-in sales.” One cram school in Seoul’s Daechi-dong district charges 270,000 won (181.6 dollars) but its branches in Gyeonggi Province charge only 88,000 won (59.2 dollars).

The Gyeonggi branches, however, force students to take online lessons for 182,000 won (122.4 dollars). On the other hand, students attending the branch in Daechi-dong get free online lessons.

Since each educational office sets different standards for tuition, even branches of the same cram school chain can charge different rates.

A cram school teacher in southern Seoul said, “Parents also know about the bad practices of cram schools. If the government only keeps strengthening regulation without normalizing public education, cram schools will adopt more creative expedients.”