After-school system gets an F

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After-school system gets an F

Five current and former school principals have been charged with receiving money and valuables for selecting certain companies to provide after-school tutoring programs.

After-school tutoring is a supplementary learning program that aims to bring private education-quality learning to public schools, without the private-school price.

Needless to say, the success of the system depends on programs that are both inexpensive and high quality, a tricky combination to find.

But instead of looking after the students’ needs by searching hard for the right provider, these school principals have disgracefully used the program to benefit themselves.

However much these principals deserve blame, the recent scandal is still the unavoidable result of a defective system. The after-school tutoring program selection system desperately needs to be revised. The most urgent need is for program selection to go through school governing committees, rather than principals. Strengthening the deliberation function of school governing committees and permitting selection of only those programs the committees agree upon can avoid the taint of scandal.

The custom of allowing companies to directly conduct “sales for selection” also opens the door to corruption, as competition between the civil companies can lead to rebates between the companies and the schools.

Now is the time to stop the one-to-one program contracts between schools and companies and establish an open program selection system.

First, there is a need for a system under which companies must certify the quality of their programs before they are allowed to apply to city and provincial education offices. The quality and price of each field of study, the skills of the teachers and the education management method must be evaluated, and only those programs that pass should be recommended to schools.

Next, teachers and parents should hold regular meetings at which they compare and evaluate the programs together, and make choices based on those evaluations.

Lastly, it is imperative to diversify the supply of after-school tutoring programs with the participation of nonprofit organizations and public facilities.

One good example is Happy School, a social company jointly established by Seoul City, SK Group, and the Woman’s Resources Development Center, a program that includes both study-guide services and field education activities.

But a school that is “happy after school” can only become a reality when abundant programs that fulfill the demands of both students and parents are made available and selected and operated through a fair process.
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