According to a Korean pastor who visited our church, the fees for after-school learning programs and private tutoring in Korea are astronomical. It is common for households to spend half their total income these things. Even elementary students have a very busy schedule, learning art, music, P.E., English, essay writing, speech, etc., returning home each day at 11 PM. Consequently, children feel extreme pressure and stress, finding outlets by watching TV and immersing themselves in computer games. As I listened to what he said, I could not help but feel sorry for their parents, who are already burdened by high living costs. I also think that because children are excessively immersed in after-school programs and tutoring, they will lose interest in normal school life, which will lower the quality of education. Most of all, I wonder what kind of effect this kind of environment will have on children as they grow older.
I left Korea 8 years ago when my daughter was just entering elementary school. She was fortunate to attend a preschool run by Ewha University, one of the most famous schools in Korea. Although the fever of after-school learning programs at that time was very high, we did not subject her to this. We only allowed a piano lesson twice a week from a college student. So, while her preschool friends went to learn different things after school, my daughter had nowhere to go but home. Since she had a hunger for learning, she was very attentive at school, and her teachers commended her. She also practiced the piano fervently and eagerly anticipated every lesson, so her piano teacher praised her for her diligence and alacrity, saying that she had never had a student like her. Since arriving in the States, we have not been able to support any after-school programs. Despite this, she does her best at school, and because she does not feel stressed out by school, she has acquired a natural habit of reading.
Experts say that the qualities of a good leader are a sensitivity to others and a heart to serve. A leader is not someone who simply possesses information, but is a person who is sensitive enough to utilize information in a way that makes other people feel embraced. Excessive extracurricular activities could easily extinguish the light of leadership within our children by too highly emphasizing knowledge over the true qualities of a leader. It can also make children turn their backs on normal school education, leading to a skewed education system where most of the education happens outside of school. It will also ultimately make children avoid books and become emotionally barren. And in an environment where children and their educational needs are the center of attention, they will inevitably turn out to be self-centered.
In the American educational system, children can focus on school life, enjoy reading, have time to go on mission trips, participate in community outreach programs, and build character all the way through high school. They focus on a primary field of study after they enter college. These qualities of the system are things to be admired and learned from.
Soo Kwan Lee
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