Program seeks to make school life less stressful

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Program seeks to make school life less stressful

Elementary school students may soon have less homework.

In the latest endeavor to undermine the country’s frenzied spending on private education, Seoul’s education authority announced that it was pushing a new policy that will discourage elementary school teachers from handing out homework to first and second-grade children.

The newest guideline, which is expected to go into effect early next year, will tackle the notion that private education starts from a very early age, before children are enrolled in elementary schools, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said in a statement Tuesday.

Although teachers will be allowed to hand out “homework that students can do by themselves within 20 minutes without their parents helping them,” educators will be asked to discourage their students from learning ahead of their level, said the office.

That includes practicing their spelling, writing book reports or solving extra math problems.

The office stressed that the policy would not be forced on teachers, but rather recommended.

“Teachers do have the right to give out homework,” said Jeong Ji-sook, an official from the Primary Education Division. “We’re not forcing all teachers to follow the orders. We’re simply setting principles.”

The key purpose of the policy, stressed Jeong, is to allow first and second-graders to learn basic Korean language and mathematics skills in classrooms, not at home.

In Korea, many kids master the basics early from their parents or at a hagwon (cram school). Teachers often skim through the early parts of a textbook, assuming their students already know the material. In addition to the no-homework policy, the Seoul education office is also trying to introduce a system in which teachers can teach the same class for two consecutive years. Another program will allow substitute teachers to step in during Korean or math classes and individually help lagging students.

And for first-graders, their first semester might be graded not by their test scores, but by how well they have adjusted to school life.


BY JEONG HYEON-JIN, LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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