Kindergarten shutdowns felt by many parents

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Kindergarten shutdowns felt by many parents

As private kindergartens close their doors after the government accused some of cooking their books last year, parents are struggling to find places for their kids.

Last October, the Ministry of Education released a list of private kindergartens with financial irregularities from 2013 to 2017 and announced that it will be spending more money to establish public kindergartens to ensure better financing and management. It also announced measures for the ministry to gain regular access to private kindergartens’ financial records.

Some private kindergartens lashed back by saying they would shut down altogether. Though it is illegal for them to shut down without approval from the ministry, some have not budged, risking fines.

According to the ministry, some 100 private kindergartens are currently considering closing down.

For the parents of the children attending them, the quest to find alternate options has not been easy.

“The kindergarten that my son has been attending announced in November its decision to shut down,” said Lee Joo-young, a resident of Seoul in her 40s. “A group of parents have looked for other options, like creating a cooperative of our own to run a kindergarten in the neighborhood, but we didn’t have enough parents to satisfy the requirements.”

Parents can create a cooperative to establish a kindergarten in Korea. They are directly involved with the curriculum and finances. Parents of children who attended kindergartens that are shutting down like this option because it represents the least amount of change in terms of teachers hired and children attending the kindergarten.

The policy requires the cooperative to rent public space from the government or for a member of the cooperative to own a private space to run a kindergarten.

Those requirements have been difficult to meet for some parents.

“We’ve looked everywhere in the area for available public space and asked the city government and the local education office for help,” said Doh Yoo-jin, a mother of a six-year-old boy in Hanam, Gyeonggi. “But all we got back as an answer was that they don’t have a public space to rent out for use as a kindergarten.”

In Doh’s group, none of the parents owned a private space so they looked into renting one.

“We found some privately-owned spaces, but laws prevent us from renting it for use as a kindergarten,” she said. “I think the city government or provincial government should come up with solutions, like buying these privately-owned spaces and renting them out to us.”

The kindergarten that Doh’s son attends announced its decision to shut down in September.

Some parents complain that the government’s policy of supporting the growth of public kindergartens does not reflect their needs.

BY JEON MIN-HEE, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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