Parents not so keen on ‘Eton’ style of education

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Parents not so keen on ‘Eton’ style of education

Only three months after it opened with the grand ideal of becoming the Eton College of Korea, Hana Academy Seoul is already facing a challenge from a group of adamant parents who are demanding that the school prepare their children more thoroughly for admissions to prestigious colleges.

Hana Academy Seoul, located in Eunpyeong District in northern Seoul, was designed to focus less on preparing for college admissions and more on extracurricular activities and volunteer work to help students become well-rounded and creative global citizens.

“Enhancing creativity is good, but how can our children get into elite universities if they don’t study as much as other high school students?” a parent asked Kim Seung-yu, the founder of Hana Academy Seoul, at a parent-teacher conference held on May 24. “If our children don’t get admissions to prestigious universities from doing too many extracurricular activities, who will be responsible?”

The parents expressed dissatisfaction with the school’s curriculum, which they say includes too many extracurricular activities. Students at Hana play sports on Mondays and Wednesdays, learn musical instruments on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and do volunteer work on Fridays. These activities are done for an hour and a half daily after classes. They also have the entire Saturday morning to do additional extracurricular activities.

“These extracurricular activities are designed to harmonize students’ physical, cultural, ethical and intellectual qualities,” said Kim Jin-sung, principal of Hana, who came to the school after resigning as a professor at Korea University with the vision of establishing an elite institution like Eton in Korea. “The ultimate goal is to make Hana Academy Seoul an outstanding educational institution that does not only focus on college admissions.”

“I am enjoying the education I’m getting because I can have diverse experiences,” said a student at Hana who identified himself with only his surname Kim. “But, I am a little worried because I don’t think I get to study as much as before, when I attended hagwon until very late at night.”

The parents asked the school to reduce the time spent on extracurricular activities and allow students to be able to leave their dormitories every weekend. The school currently allows students to leave once a month to prevent them from attending test-prep institutions or private lessons.

“It is difficult to completely ignore demands of the parents and a society that puts too much emphasis on a college degree,” said an official at Hana. “We are currently evaluating plans to reduce extracurricular activities.”

However, the school has refused to change their dorm leave policy. Principal Kim said that if Hana allowed students to leave the school on the weekends and they went to private lessons, there would be no difference between Hana and other foreign language high schools or autonomous private high schools.

“There are lots of conflicts between worried parents who demand intense preparation for college admissions and educators who advocate less focus on test preparation,” said Kim Sung-chun, deputy chief for Organization Against Private Education. “Everyone needs to seriously consider what we should do to nurture global leaders in a society that regards college degrees from a few prestigious universities as the ultimate ticket to success.”


By Jeong Seon-eon [enational@joongang.co.kr]

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