[Viewpoint]Making after school special

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[Viewpoint]Making after school special

Lately, interest in the After School Academy has been growing among parents and students. Duksung Girls’ Middle School in Seoul made headlines for its after-school program which has eliminated the need for private tutoring institutes. The results of its academic achievement assessment show that the program is operating successfully.

However, we should be prudent in linking the objectives of the After School Academy directly with academic achievement or the cost of supplementary private lessons because such an analogy could distort the whole point of after-school programs.

If the focus is on academic achievement or a reduction in private education expenses, the After School Academy will be filled with supplementary instruction on Korean, English, mathematics and science, and it could lead to yet another private education market inside public schools.

After-school programs first began in 1995 in order to cater to specific aptitudes, and in 2004, level-based supplementary instruction and after-school child care were added; a series of various programs have since been integrated into the After School Academy.

The goal of the After School Academy is to reduce the burden of private education spending through academic and child care services in schools, to accomplish realistic educational welfare by reducing the educational gap between regions and classes, and to make the academy the center of the school that is closely connected to the community.

Enhanced academic achievement or reduced private education spending should be understood as just the results in the course of pursuing these objectives.

If the After School Academy could satisfy both parents and students as it offers substantial instruction and pursues these goals, students’ academic achievements would be improved naturally, and they would rely less on supplementary private instruction.

For the After School Academy to function properly, the schools need to prioritize the position of students and parents benefitting from the programs and consider whether their needs and expectations are being met.

By actively monitoring and reflecting the opinions of the students and parents in the program, they become active participants, not just mere education consumers. Therefore, schools need to offer programs that are designed to target the characteristics and needs of the attending elementary, middle and high school students. For participants in the lower grades, a variety of aptitude-based instruction and child care should be provided, whereas the older students demand a focus on the curriculum.

In order to raise the value of the After School Academy and provide a more balanced evaluation, different success cases should be highlighted to publicize the different goals of the After School Academy. People should recognize different accomplishments that reflect the regional characteristics and needs of the students in a particular community, such as nurturing talented and cultured students and forming an excellent relationship with the local community, not just in order to enhance academic achievement and reduce private education spending.

Behind any outstanding After School Academy are devoted teachers and staff. However, we can no longer continue to rely on the devotion of a few teachers. There should be systematic assistance to help those teachers who put their hearts and souls into the After School Academy. The education authority should seek various measures such as assigning professional staff designated to the After School Academy, encouraging the participation of retired teachers and local residents and hiring teaching interns and college student-mentors.

Through a network of educational agencies and facilities in the community, information and programs should be exchanged, and staff and facilities could be shared to boost assistance for the After School Program. While the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is pursuing the After School Academy at the school level, other ministries have been helping out with community-based programs. However, there has not been much inter-ministerial cooperation, and there is no system that connects local government organizations and the boards of education.

Once a comprehensive plan that encompasses ministries and communities is designed, the After School Academy will be able to provide better quality programs of a wider spectrum.

The writer is a research fellow and head of the After School Academy Team at the Korea Educational Development Institute. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Byun Jong-im
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