President Park Geun-hye may wish for all preschoolers to have universal and free child care services under her ambitious welfare plans.
However, for some rich parents, the state program is meaningless as they choose to send their kids to private “English kindergartens.”
In stark contrast to state-run or supported child care centers now offered for free under Park’s administration, these English-learning institutes can cost up to 2 million won a month.
Despite the high price, demand is high as many parents, particularly those in the wealthy Gangnam area, believe that learning the foreign language will make their children more competitive, even before they enter elementary school. Some in the education industry argue that the programs with foreign teachers from English-speaking countries are prerequisite courses for those who wish to enter private elementary schools or international schools. The quality of facilities, content and even food are incomparable to ordinary child care centers, they claim.
However, it is still hard for many to understand why the monthly fee for English kindergartens is higher than college tuition.
Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said the current regulations allow them to have the same hourly rate as other English institutions for adults or older children. But because kids spend more time at English kindergartens than adults or students, the total monthly tuition is automatically higher, the office added.
The education authority said it will take actions such as setting a new price standard for English kindergartens or supervising them more strictly to curb tuition. However, if the government lowers the price, it could make the services even more attractive because they will be more affordable, say those in the industry. The demand for English kindergartens or other expensive private institutions will continue to grow and there is not much the government, or Park’s free child care program, can do to bridle Korean parents’ burning passion for their kids’ education, they say.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org