Children and parents at Children`s Grand Park in eastern Seoul on July 31. (Yonhap)
The Education Ministry is again under fire, this time from teachers against its new all-day schooling policy.
With its minister Park Soon-ae announcing her willingness to resign after proposing to lower the elementary school entry age to five, the ministry said it will run all-day schooling programs to offer state-provided childcare.
The plan involves elementary schools offering childcare services through afterschool classes until 8 p.m. At the National Assembly meeting held Tuesday, the ministry said it will start test trials of the service next year, expanding the program to all elementary schools by 2025. Elementary schools’ childcare service currently runs to 7 p.m.
However, the new proposal has caused an uproar among teachers and faculty members.
“I am not sure if elementary schools running late is the solution to everything,” an elementary school teacher based in eastern Seoul who wanted to remain anonymous said. “There is only so much a school can do for children.”
Education organizations have also spoken out against the new scheme.
“We are against the all-day schooling policy for elementary schools, which puts the burden of childcare and afterschool classes on schools and teachers,” the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union said. “Though education offices and public service offices are in charge, it will be the schools and teachers who are responsible in the end, making it impossible to focus on education.”
It instead proposed making the local governments take charge of afterschool classes.
The Korean Federation of Teachers’ Associations also released a statement Thursday, calling for the ministry to “withdraw the all-day schooling plan which shifts all responsibility to schools.”
The Education Ministry said it will operate a task force at local education offices or other public service offices to minimize the administrational burden on teachers and faculty members. It plans to share more details on the plan in October.
Parents are showing mixed reactions. While some welcome the new plan, others worry about their children staying late at school.
“The government should focus on making the parents return home early, instead of having the children staying at schools for long hours,” a person wrote on a community website frequented by school parents.
By Im Eun-byel (firstname.lastname@example.org)