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After-school programs at elementary, middle and high schools have secured their place in Korean education by providing viable alternatives to private cram schools.

As the successful experiments increasingly integrate tutoring into public schools, they are seen as the only way to save public education.

Currently, 11,098 elementary, middle, and high schools (or 99.9 percent) run the programs, with the participation of 52.8 percent of all students. The programs have yielded considerable results in terms of reducing private education spending, with students and parents showing growing satisfaction.

After-school programs are meant to help schools regain the people’s trust. Against this backdrop, the government has decided to launch a new department to support the programs. In this context, President Lee Myung-bak visited Deokseong Girls’ Middle School two months ago to witness how after-school programs work, and called them “the hope of public education.”

The question is, how can we facilitate qualitative development as well as quantitative growth, so as to pave the way for the programs to become stable parts of Korean education?

Most importantly, it is necessary to strike a balance among after-school programs. Currently, schools place too much emphasis on academic achievement, with 54.5 percent of students entering extracurricular programs on academic subjects.

This makes us anxious that students will not develop specialties. This is not the purpose of introducing after-school programs focused on each student’s unique abilities, and will not reduce parents’ spending on private education.

A variety of quality programs should be offered to satisfy students, by ensuring that teachers and outside lecturers are equipped with expertise.

Systematic support including proper compensation for teachers who devote themselves to the development of after-school programs should be offered.

The interest and support of the local community is another important factor in facilitating the programs’ qualitative growth, because the efficient engagement of various human and material resources from the local community, such as companies, public agencies, civic groups and universities, can contribute to boosting after-school activities.

An effort to discover and spread the best methods for after-school programs should be undertaken. Schools and regions should share their experiences and their most excellent programs, as well as encourage all school participants, teachers and students alike.

But the programs’ qualitative development is not enough to revitalize public education.

The normalization of public education may be realized only when we have undertaken the simultaneous development of after-school programs and reform of our regular educational system.

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