For the Young, It’s a WarBattles over education and private tutoring in both Japan and Korea have reached the level of war. In both countries, private tutoring is a common practice in preschool education. There is only one difference between the two countries: Private tutoring for pre- school children in Korea is mostly based on the com- petitive psychology of parents, an abstract cause; pre- school tutoring in Japan is focused on gifted children to prepare them for a top-notch university.
Let us look at an example in Japan. A 32-year- old housewife, living in Tokyo, feels very upset these days, because her son, who is 6, failed in the entrance examination for a distinguished elementary school. Her goal is to have her son emulate his father, who graduated from Tokyo University. To accomplish this, her son has to enter the elementary school run by either the University of Tsukuba or Tokyo Gakugei University. If her son enters a public elementary school, he has to give up the dream of attending the prestigious university.
Candidates wishing to enter the elementary schools run by the University of Tsukuba and Tokyo Gakugei University have to go through a first round of a drawing of lots and a second round of tests in writing and other skills, plus an interview. Those who pass the first and second rounds enter the third round Œa drawing of lots again. Her son, who has studied in kindergarten since he was 3, went to a preparatory institution in addition to kindergarten during the last year in order to pass the second round of the test. Although he lost weight and cried often at night because of the stress, there was nothing she could do to help him. He failed the third round the drawing of lots at the two schools and entered the Bancho Elementary School, the next-best alternative. "I paid 3 million yen ($26,000) for his private tutoring last year," she said. "It was still a good investment; he made it into the Bancho School."
Let us now look at the example in Korea. More than 10 programs of special education for the precocious aged up to 6, adopted from foreign countries, are sweeping the nation. In addition to textbooks, parents normally pay about 70,000 won ($53) a month for private lessons four times a month. Everyone rushes to have their children take such lessons one out of three or four children in our society is taking private lessons which were designed for a very small segment of the preschool population the gifted. In 1997, Korean parents paid over three times more than the Japanese did for their children''s private lessons, according to a 1999 report by the Korea Development Institute. The Japanese housewife asked, "Does everyone in Korea, not only parents of gifted children, waste money and make their children suffer only because they want their children to enter a university?"