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Almost half of schools join state-backed after-school programs

April 3, 2024 - 15:24 By Choi Jeong-yoon
President Yoon Suk Yeol takes pictures with students after teaching them as a one-day teacher for the state's childcare program at Ain Elementary School in Hwasung, Gyeonggi Province on Friday. (Yonhap)

Students and schools' participation in before- and after-school care programs, a new state-backed child care initiative, has increased over a month into the launch, the Ministry of Education reported Wednesday.

Dubbed "Neulbom" which directly translates to "always caring," a total of 2,838 out of 6,175 elementary schools have joined the government-run child care education, accounting for 46 percent of the total number of elementary schools nationwide, Education Minister Lee Ju-ho said at a press briefing.

This is an increase from the number at the initial phase of the project where some 2,740 elementary schools launched the new child care education program last month. The figure was already 37 percent more than the government's original plan to start with 2,000 schools in March.

With Seoul and Gwangju education offices planning to expand schools in April, the number is likely to increase to 2,963, taking up almost half of the schools nationwide.

Currently, some 136,000 students participate in the program.

The programs, which run from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., aim to provide various educational and child care services to elementary school students whose parents are working. But children with parents who are not working can also apply for the service. Usually, school hours for first graders at elementary schools in Korea begin at about 9 a.m. and end at about 1 to 2 p.m.

This initiative is part of the government's policy to address the low birth rate by alleviating the child care burden for working parents. The government also seeks to mitigate the demand for private education.

President Yoon Suk Yeol has actively promoted the project by pledging his utmost support, even taking part as a one-day teacher for four elementary schools.

The program has also created employment as schools are hiring teachers for the program. In response to concerns over the burden on existing school teachers of an increased workload, the government has rolled out plans to recruit irregular teachers who hold part-time or contract-based teaching positions.

"Currently there are some 17,000 after-school teachers, which is a 50 percent increase from 11,000 in early March. We have also deployed 2,168 personnel only for the after-school programs," said Lee.

In the second semester, additional personnel will be recruited from public servants and retired teachers to be in full charge of the programs and lift the burden from teachers.