ONE sunny Saturday morning, Min-hee (Alias, 12, fifth grade) takes a private French lesson (10:00 to 12:00) near Daechi station. She takes a short lunch break at the convenience store and eats a microwaved Onigiri [Explain this. You can not drop a Japanese word and expected people to understand it.] Before heading to the next schedule (13: 00-15: 00), a one-on-one English literature lesson at a franchise café. She does not have to worry about the eighth-grade algebra. (15: 00-20: 00). Minhee arrives at her home in Dogok-dong around 20:30. Recently, every mother realized that physical education lessons are legal to continue after 22:00 unlike other academic lessons. At 21:00, she begins a two-hour basketball lesson with friends who each have their own schedules for the day.
Since Min-hee is one of the families that can support her studies, she might be enrolled in a special-purpose high school some years later everything goes smoothly. Her school career must include: gaining top class grades by giving up leisure and taking more private lessons, faithfully participating in extracurricular activities. Every parents are paying him $ 300 an hour and writing the perfect personal essay, stressing specific to convince the university administration officers of each well-bred character. Finally, by pouring all of her heart to make the best impression at the university interview, hopefully discussing issues she had practiced for several weeks at the interview academy in Hanti,
Although it is ambiguous to pinpoint a single factor that South Korean students are unhappiest among those in the OECD countries, 68.8% of them are enrolled in a form of private education. Competition for early private education is more intense than ever. For several years, young mothers have lined up to send their three-year-olds to "specialized" English Kindergartens whose admission fees exceed several thousand dollars per month.
While the official statistics of Korea's total national income is 18 trillion dollars, other reports such as the Korea Development Institute (KDI) estimated 33 trillion dollar-a sum that accounts for nearly 9% of the entire national budget. The Statistics Korea report asserts that the average cost per student is shifted from ₩ 288,000 to ₩ 378,000 in ten years; However, this is an inadequate sum that betrays the reality.
Let us dwell on the word "average." Nobody believes that word in this country. Not many students, unless they are from a wealthy family like Minhee's, could maintain a decently "average" life by earning an "average" grade in their class. Instead, all families armed with the "wealth of the grandfather and the indifference of father" will collect utmost capital to usher their children into the "elite track" which is blatantly known among all mothers.
Some of the standards include: purchasing prenatal English audio tapes, solving creativity puzzles with 24-months olds, applying to English language schools, and enrolling in elementary schools and special-purpose high schools. It is known as a moral and ethical duty to invest fully in "the most critical time of their children's lives" -before the age of barely twenty. Parents could not help but invest a large portion of the monthly income on the * hagwon * fees, not thinking about saving money for old age, nor investing in a house or a new car, entering the "silver poor" generation.
In fact, the cost of supporting a child from birth to before college in Korea is estimated to be four hundred thousand dollars. The sheer pressure of child rearing-private education- expenses is intimidating an increasing number of couples to have children in the first place. There are some parents who refuse to abide by private education. Good, their neighbors will be glad to resolve one more competitor from the field. The wheel runs on and on. The light in the Daechi-dong hagwon street never goes out, even after the students become grown-ups.
Let us suppose that Minhee and every family pulled through all obstacles and Minhee becomes a student in a sky-high university. She will find another set of obstacles, which she faces in elementary school, middle school and high school. She had a good girl this whole time. She was closely followed by her parents and teachers, who laid out in front of her and lived up to expectations, but there were more people to impress, more things to prove.
Minhee thinks she will not care about the future and decides she should end up just an average job. She watches several of her friends go into a one-room * Gositel * in Sillim or Noryangjin to study for the civil service examination and wonders if she should too. The game of anxiety and competition that has devoured the parents' pockets in the past decade has slowly crept into Minhee's life and now she has to find her own ways of winning it. The parasitic chain of private education returns in the form of TOEIC academies, employment preparation academies, computer academies, and speech articulation academies -all of these will make a more appealing candidate in the job market.
Meanwhile, Minhee continues her part-time job as a private English tutor that pays ₩ 35,000 an hour. That's five times more than the minimal wage that every friend works for at a convenience store. She was luckily given the job because she earned top marks in the college entrance test. Even her employer seems to think she rightly deserves high payment, since she wears one of the most prestigious tags in the country. Unless a drastic change occurs, Minhee will keep the child until he grows up. As long as her life is concerned, Minhee is a beneficiary of the private education system, and it would not make sense if she does not benefit from it. After all, she is the lucky student who managed to beat all the other "average" students.