Dads taking stock in children’s academics

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Dads taking stock in children’s academics

Lee Kang-san, a 45-year-old father and manager at the Korea Asset Management Corporation, used to be your typical “Daechi-dong dad.”

The term is often used to describe middle-class fathers with professional jobs who have moved to Gangnam District’s Daechi neighborhood in southern Seoul so their children can have easy access to top academic institutes.

The area has the nation’s largest concentration of private academies.

Like many working dads who often have to stay late at the office, Lee completely entrusted the education of his 10-year-old son to his wife and the neighborhood hagwons, or private cram schools.

But after attending a fathers’ council meeting hosted by his son’s school, he came to realize just how stressed his 10-year-old was from his long hours of studying.

So Lee convinced his wife last year to stop sending their son to hagwons, just for six months. Instead, he studied with his son each night when he returned from the office, and they spent time together on the weekends visiting exhibitions and art galleries.

Over time, his son became happier and his performance at school was never better.

“My fourth grader had a higher academic performance at school and our relationship improved after we stopped sending him to hagwons and spent more time together on the weekends,” Lee said. “More Daechi-dong dads nowadays are turning away from the notion that stellar academic performance is the only goal.”

Lee and a group of neighborhood fathers recently established a forum to discuss and develop strategies for how to raise their children to lead happier, healthier lives. The panel held its first lecture on Sept. 13 with this theme in mind at the Daechi-dong community center.

“This lecture series invites guest speakers who are willing to share child education insight with us for free,” said Kim Myung-sun, the president of the forum.

Nearly 100 participants, including parents and children, attended the lecture. Some mothers even burst into tears while reading off letters they had written for their children.

“It was a precious opportunity to reconsider the role of fathers in children’s education. A lot of us busy fathers are often negligent [about that],” Choi Jin-young, a father who works as a lawyer, said after the lecture.

The forum currently consists of about 30 fathers who are sitting or former members of the fathers’ council at Daegok Elementary School, located in the upscale Daechi neighborhood. Most are middle class and hold professional jobs.

The men gather with the common goal of instilling personality and values in their children through the quality of education.

They participate in school events, but they also join in other activities, such as camping trips, family hikes and field trips to farming and fishing regions.

“Many fathers nowadays are keen to maintain close emotional ties with their children and often have deep conversations with them,” said Jung Jae-ho, a forum member and accountant.

“I spent many years agonizing over how to educate children and instill personal character and values,” said Lee Yook-beom, a former elementary school principal and adviser to the fathers’ forum.

“After years, I concluded that children grow up to be amicable and well-integrated adults when their fathers are actively involved in their education.”


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