Students rely on hagwon more than public schools

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Students rely on hagwon more than public schools

Students are growing increasingly distrustful of schoolteachers, believing instructors at hagwon, or private institutes, have more skill, according to research obtained by the JoongAng Ilbo.

Research by the Korean Educational Development Institute shows that many Korean high school students find hagwon teachers outshine their public schoolteachers in intimacy and academic motivation.

The institute polled 6,600 students at 116 high schools across the country who also attend hagwon and asked them to rate hagwon and school teachers in 14 categories. Hagwon teachers receive higher scores across the board. The questions asked how well teachers help students obtain skills to study independently, how much do their classes help to prepare them for the College Scholastic Aptitude Test, and whether their classes reflected changes of government policies.

Students were also asked if they were satisfied with teachers, how much teachers are devoted to teaching, how well teachers are prepared for class, how teaching improves their understanding, how much teachers respect students’ opinions, and how well teachers communicate.

Each question was given a maximum of seven points.

The disparity between hagwon and school teachers was the greatest on the question “how fairly teachers treat students in class regardless of their academic performance.” Hagwon teachers received 4.52 points while schoolteachers earned only 3.25 points.

A student surnamed Song, who goes to high school in Gangnam, a famed private education district in southern Seoul, is in the top 5 percent of his school and is typical of many of those surveyed. He said he rarely raises his hand to ask questions of his public school teacher.

“I got a sense that schoolteachers don’t like their classes being interrupted and I walk on eggshells,” Song said, adding that it’s also difficult to ask teachers questions after class.

Aside from lecturing, public school teachers are busy with administrative chores, making it hard to get their attention. Students said they are barred from entering the teacher’s office in the midterm and final exam periods to prevent them from seeing exam questions.

Song said that’s why he turns to his hagwon teachers.

“In my hagwon I have been told to feel free to ask questions at any time,” Song, 18, said. “Hagwon teachers prepare supplemental study materials tailored to my study level and I feel more comfortable at a hagwon than at public schools because hagwon teachers approach me first and give me encouragement.”

The ratings showed that students gave higher scores to hagwon teachers for preparing them for college entrance exams. They also prefer how hagwon teachers try to maintain a closeness with students. Schoolteachers got 3.55 points and hagwon teachers got 4.65 points in this category.

Another high school student surnamed Yun, 16, complained the public school teachers don’t value contact between students, and teachers don’t pay attention to students.

“I sleep at math class in school but I study hard during my hagwon math class,” Yun said. “Schoolteachers don’t care whether their students chat, sleep or play games in the middle of class. They act like they are in a magic spell and they only see us sitting quietly in the classroom.”

Contrary to schoolteachers, many students said hagwon teachers are very acute to changes in students’ actions. “The fate of whether a hagwon teacher can continue teaching depends heavily on evaluations by students in their courses,” said Lee, who teaches Korean for the College Scholastic Aptitude Test in a hagwon based in Seoul. “That’s why hagwon teachers make sure students are following along without difficulty.”

Choi Jeong-hwa, a mother of a 17-year-old high school student, said she’s convinced of the accuracy of the research.

“My daughter’s hagwon teacher gives me a call once a week and tells me about my child’s academic performance and how she’s doing overall at the hagwon,” Choi said. “I sometimes relay my child’s complaints and he [the teacher] takes it as feedback. I feel in a way that hagwon teachers are more responsible.”

Choi Sang-geun, a senior researcher of the KEDI, said schoolteachers need to work harder because they scored lower in the category of maintaining close relations with students.

Meanwhile, schoolteachers complained about the results of the KEDI’s research.

Some of the teachers said it wasn’t appropriate to compare hagwon and public school teachers as they differ in their purpose.

“In reality, it’s impossible to give lessons tailored to each student’s level in a school classroom packed with 40 students,” Kim, a schoolteacher, said. “Asking schoolteachers to treat their students like their clients just like hagwon instructors is nonsense.”

Lee Seong-ho, an education studies professor at Chung-Ang University, said that unlike hagwon teachers who can’t survive in the private education market if they fail to tailor themselves to a student’s study level, schoolteachers can keep their jobs.

“An evaluation system needs to be made to rate teachers’ performance,” Lee said.


By Kim Mi-ju, Park Su-ryon [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]
Related Korean Article

“학교선 질문 많이하면 눈치 줘” “40명 교실서 맞춤교육 불가능”


서울 강남의 A고교 3학년에 올라가는 송모(18)군은 학교 수업시간에 질문을 거의 하지 않는다. 성적이 전교 상위 5% 안에 드는 송군은 “선생님이 질문을 많이 하면 눈치를 준다”며 “그렇다고 쉬는 시간에 찾아가 물어보기도 쉽지 않다”고 말했다. 행정업무 처리에 바쁜 교사와 시간 맞추기가 어렵고, 질문거리가 많은 시험 기간엔 ‘보안 유지’를 이유로 교무실 출입이 제한되기 때문이다. 송군은 학원에서 궁금증을 푼다고 했다. 그는 “학원에선 수시로 ‘모르는 건 그때그때 질문하라’고 한다”며 “학원 선생님은 수준에 맞는 보충자료를 충실히 준비해주고 친근하게 말을 걸어오니 편하다”고 말했다.

송군처럼 교사와 학원 강사에 대한 학생들의 ‘온도차’는 한국교육개발원(KEDI)의 고교생 대상 조사에서도 나타났다. 학생들이 교사보다 학원 강사를 더 높게 평가하고, 교사가 학생들의 학업 태도나 성취도에 미치는 영향력도 학원 강사보다 낮게 나온 것이다.

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