Story By: Joshua Lim Editor: Sam Chung Webdesigner: Andy Yoon
6 pm on a Saturday afternoon, the streets of Daechi-dong are crowded with students of all ages, varying from small toddlers in primary school waddling about to high schoolers intensely memorising their English vocab or looking at the most recent post on Facebook. These students are focused to go to one place - hagwons.
Hagwons, the Korean term for academies, are essentially what could be considered as a second school that excels in a certain subject. Students typically use hagwons in order to gain an upper hand or an early introduction in educational subjects, such as learning Calculus when school teaches Algebra, or learning how to debate in order to attend debate competitions.
As a result of the increasing number of students who have taken the hagwon to learn, the number of these academies have went up as well, mostly because of the potential for a large sum of profit from the education hungry students. As a result, demand for better teachers, especially of Caucasian descent, increase in order to improve the level of education that the hagwon could provide. However, this level of education is not always reflected in the student body.
When prompted with the question of “What do you think about student’s attitudes toward academies? How about their work ethic?”, answers from teachers of hagwons were mostly mixed, but highly critical of the students themselves. Youngcho Lee, debate coach at Leaders Academy, stated that “hagwons can be very useful for students, but it’s all up to the user. Some might use it wisely, while others go to waste time.” Similarly, Michael Richardson, teacher at Alto Academy, said that, “some students are internally motivated” but also contemplated that “kids have to find a connection - kids have to see a connection between their hagwons and their lives. If they do not find this, their motivation evaporates very quickly.”
Even though some students may find the use of hagwons to be beneficial in their course of education, many students slowly become too reliant on their teachers, not trying on their own to fully understand a concept, or to fully master a skill. In such a society where using knowledge to it’s fullest potential is key, the adolescents are rather going to stations where they are blankly forcefed concepts, spoonful after spoonful.