Saturday, November 20, 2010

Are you busier than a Korean student? Day 11 (10 October)

NZ1 and I share a theory about the apparent lack of appropriate bedtimes for Korean children: Parents allow children of all ages to stay awake until they literally collapse in exhaustion in an effort to condition them for the thousands of sleepless nights that await them during their school life.  These kids are tough!

I was amazed to hear from the two new waegooks at the hagwon that their last lesson, with a ten year old girl, on a Friday was 20:30 – 21:30!  They only start their first lesson at 15:00 and give back to back classes until 21:30 Monday to Friday.  With such a rigorous timetable from such a young age, I’m starting to understand why our students are passing out during lessons – either that or there’s a bit of underage soju-drinking happening in the dormitories which seems highly unlikely.

My brain can’t even begin to contemplate the round-the-clock timetable that constitutes an education in Korea, and I can’t help but wonder how much of what they learn at school is: a) useful and b) retained in their long-term memory.  Yes, they study unbelievably hard and seem to generally be very dedicated to their education but they’re studying to tests, which seems somewhat counter-productive.

There are, however, things that South African (and possibly other) schools could learn from the Korean schools.  At my school, the students are assigned a classroom and the teachers move between the classes as required.  Lessons are 50 minutes long with a 10 minute break between each one so lessons start on the hour making the timetable easy to follow.  The break is long enough for students to do all of the annoying things like use the restroom and get a drink of water so as not to interrupt the lessons – although there are, obviously, still some such interruptions.  Not being able to decorate the classroom is a bit of a downside but it does cut down on student tardiness.

In addition, the students are responsible for cleaning the school.  10 minutes at the end of every day is cleaning time and the small groups of students assigned to all areas are really efficient.  I can’t help wondering if SA schools made the students responsible for cleaning the schools, if there would be a change in attitude from them too.  I have yet to hear - or perhaps understand - a Korean student complain about these 10 minutes of cleaning.  Like a well-oiled clock, when the seventh lesson ends, they simply move to their designated areas and get on with the job at hand.  Most of the classrooms I’ve been in so far are chaotic to the point that I need hiking boots to move across the endless mountains of books beside each desk, but when you look past all of the books and school supplies, the classrooms are clean despite the students eating and drinking during lessons.  It just goes to show:  When you have clean up after yourself, you’re far more meticulous about where you throw things the first time.

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