Late night rightsThere is heated debate on night classes at private tutoring institutes, called hagwon in Korean. The debate was sparked by the Seoul City Council passing an amendment to a municipal ordinance, which would open the way for unlimited night classes at private tutoring institutes.
Currently, classes must end by 10 p.m. But this ruling will be liberalized. Teachers’ and parents’ associations have stood up to demand the immediate withdrawal of the amendment. They claim this would violate young people’s right to health and would exacerbate reliance on private tutoring. However, it is proper to get rid of regulations that cannot be enforce.
Currently, a number of municipal and provincial offices are limiting private tutoring institutes from holding classes at night. Nonetheless, in reality, many institutes are holding classes past midnight. There is a big gap between reality and the law.
First, despite clauses that punish institutes not abiding by the regulations, they are only reprimanded on paper and not realistically enforced. There are only two to three officers per regional education office to oversee hundreds of institutes, making it impossible to do their jobs properly.
The regulation only makes students who go to night classes into potential criminals.
At the heart of the debate is whether to liberalize or control. The private tutoring fervor that sends children to institutes until past midnight is indeed problematic.
But whether to study all night or until early evening is up to a person to decide and none of government’s business. Whether to go to night classes at private tutoring institutes is up to students and their parents to decide, and none of the education authorities’ business.
If a student studies till early morning at home, will education authorities intervene on the pretext that it will harm the student’s health?
Above all, the real problem lies in the fact that there is demand for studying at private institutes. No student or parent would be happy to come home worn out from private tutoring at night.
However, they still look for private tutoring, because they must supplement what public schooling does not provide. As long as there is demand, private tutoring will not diminish. Education authorities should not insist that they can solve this problem by imposing regulations.
They must first diminish the demand for private tutoring.