Hagwon is the Korean-language word for a for-profit private academy or institute prevalent in South Korea. The term is also sometimes used to describe similar institutions operated by Korean Americans in the United States. The industry faces criticism because it is seen as creating an unequal footing for the poor and rich in Korea, while some see hagwons as filling a need not being adequately met by the public school system. Children of all ages often attend hagwons, even those in the pre-school age bracket. It is not uncommon for students to be enrolled in several hagwon of different subject areas at once in addition to their normal school attendance. Hagwons may specialize in subjects like math, foreign language, science, art, music, or English. Some in Korean society view hagwons and hagwon owners negatively because of their perception that these schools have caused economic issues for many families or been a factor in the disparity between the education levels of different social classes. In 2008 it was reported that there were over 70,000 hagwons in South Korea with 47% of them being geared towards high school enrollment.
Many residents feel their children need to be associated with these schools in order to reach the upper levels of business and success. As more parents try to move to the area to allow their children to attend these schools it has caused the prices of real estate in the area to rise to 300 percent of similar areas in Seoul. In 2003 the government had planned to develop a hagwon center in Pangyo (where we live!!) to relieve some of the pressure on Gangnam, yet after heavy criticism for only shifting the problem around and not solving it, the government canceled the plan only a couple weeks later.
Interesting stuff, right? We see lots of the real estate issues here at our hagwon. Parents who have students in KINDERGARTEN moved so they could be closer to the hagwon!
Here are some photos from Kindergarten Orientation yesterday. Kindergarten here is two years so some of the kiddos are new and some were here last year also, so they may look familiar from other photos.
Angela has the biggest personality. She's hilarious.
"She's romantic stylist would rather fan club freguent?" WHAT?!?!? LOL!
The kiddos made pizza as part of their orientation. This is Sean.
Erin and Jamie being silly
Hair accessories are really popular in Korea. This is Jenith and her hair pin was about half the size of her entire head! :)
Brian was pretty unsure about eating his pizza. He wouldn't take a bite until another teacher helped him! Haha! These kids are so funny.
This is Jenith. She is so sweet and really smart. She is always telling the other kids "Ms Leah will tell you to be quiet" "Ms Leah will tell you to not speak in Korean" etc. She's a litte teacher in the making.
Working hard on their pizza!
Later in the day it was the first day of first grade. The majority of the students were in kindergarten here and were SO excited to come for first grade. It was so sweet to see. Some kids were running around excited and yelling "I'm in first grade, Ms Leah. This is first grade!!" and other kids were just way too cool for school now that they are "big kids." Overall it was a fun day, but exhausting too. Here are some pictures:
Fun craft project. Some of the kids have a hard time saying "arts and crafts" and it comes out "arts and crap." So hard to not laugh when they say, "Ms Leah I'm so excited for arts and CRAP!" :)
This is Claire. She's the sweetest kid you'll ever meet. She is always writing the teachers the cutest little notes. The one above my desk says, "You are the best teacher. At BIS you are the prettiest. I love you very much. Will you be my pal?"
This is Annie all dressed up for the first day of first grade.
One of the first grade classes. This is Clarion, Claire, Annie, Grant and Jamie.
Here is another first grade class. The first two boys on the left, Alex and Sam, are twins. Then there is Kevin, Ben, Joshua and Judy.