South Korea Cracks Down on Late-Night Tutoring

By Anthony Rebora — October 11, 2011 1 min read
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Well, here’s one educational problem we probably don’t have to worry about in the U.S.: Were you aware that the South Korean government is now conducting late-nights raids to enforce a new curfew on after-hours tutoring operations?

The raids, Amanda Ripley reports in a fascinating article for Time, are part of a far-reaching effort by South Korean authorities to “humanize” the country’s education system. While South Korea is frequently lauded for its students’ high scores on international comparison tests (including by the Obama administration), the country’s leaders are increasingly concerned that its time-honored emphasis on high-pressure school admissions exams is swamping innovative thinking and demoralizing young people. “You Americans see a bright side of the Korean system,” Education Minister Lee Ju-Ho tells Ripley, “but Koreans are not happy with it.”

In addition to raiding cram schools, the South Korean government has taken steps to improve instruction in regular public schools (where apparently it is customary for tutoring-weary students to sleep through droning lectures); eliminate admission exams for prestigious high schools; and expand university admissions criteria.

Whether or not these steps are making more than a dent in the country’s tutoring obsession, Ripley says, is far from clear. One successful tutor she spoke to said he had not seen a difference in his income. He made $4 million last year.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.