Source : The Korea Times
15 April, 2010
NEW YORK ― For Kay Choi, providing a quality summer education for her two older children meant shelling out at least 10 million won ($9,000) each year. This covered two roundtrip plane tickets to Seoul, two months of ``hagwon'' tuition and an allowance for the high-school students while they stayed with their relatives.
But Choi has different plans for her third child.
She's going with a local Korean academy instead ― not because she's short on money, but because the quality is now finally up to par with her standards.
From late night lessons and walk-in tutors to homework overloads, the school's got it all.
``It's just like a hardcore Korean cram school,'' says Choi, a realtor and an education-frenzied mother of three kids, two of which are enrolled in an Ivy League school. ``But it's even better because my child doesn't have to fly anywhere and I don't have to pay as much.''
Korean-managed hagwon in the U.S. typically charge anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000 for a fully customized two-month lesson plan for students preparing for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). On top of the basic course, parents can add on 10 weeks of writing, math or verbal classes for $600 to $1,000 each.
Unlike the past where students were sent home right after classes, many academies now operate all-day with open-door sessions that run late into the evening. Students, under the watch of elite tutors, are required to memorize hundreds of vocabulary words daily.
Failure to do so calls for brutal punishment ― a few hundred more words to master.
``The bottom line is, parents like super rigid teaching,'' said Kim, a co-head of a mid-sized hagwon in New Jersey. ``They don't want us to cut them any slack. So our job is to appeal to them with the most systematic and tightly scheduled programs.''
Ahead of the summer, hagwon in New York, Seattle, Atlanta, Los Angeles and other major densely Korean-populated cities are rolling out competitive curriculums to satisfy even the pickiest of moms and dads.
For many of these academies, their competition isn't the other cram school across town but those far away in Seoul.
Over the years many parents like Choi have opted to send their children to Korea for intensive summer schooling, resulting in fewer enrollments for hagwon in the U.S.
``We're trying to turn the tables around now,'' said David Lee, who runs a SAT prep school in New York. ``It should make more sense for Korean students to come to the U.S. to study for the test and not the other way around."
By Jane Han
Korea Times Correspondent