Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Is the Korean government going to use the H1N1 pandemic as an excuse to "temporarily' close down hagwons, with the intention of breaking their backs?

Discuss. (Background info here and here)

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11 comments:

  1. This would probably do more to curb swine flu than closing public schools would. These hagwons are nothing more than a chance for the virus to find its way into different schools.

    Also, nothing would make me happier than to see all the arrogant, cockbag hagwon owners actually not make ridiculous sums of money for a month or two.

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  2. Kushibo,

    Methinks you have a big time crush on each of those underaged, school uniform wearing agashis!

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  3. Matt, I think you make a very good point about the problem with hagwons being a nexus for new infections. You or someone else had made that point earlier, and from a public health point of view, it's quite valid.

    So while closing down hagwons (temporarily, at least until flu vaccines have been distributed and they've been allowed the ten days or so to kick in) would be sound practice from a public health standpoint, I wondered if this was also being seen as a fringe benefit by the government — which sees hagwons as the bane of government efforts to level the playing field for educational opportunity and curb out-of-control keeping-up-with-the-Joneses extracurricular spending — to hobble the hagwon industry so badly that many would end up closing their doors for good.

    That thought was inspired by this comment over at Brian's, made by An Acorn in the Dog's Food (who posts elsewhere as Samedi):

    For those in the national assembly who want to remove hagwons from the educational system here, well, swine flu might serve as a good excuse.

    I didn't include that in the original post, but am doing so in the comments section, because I wanted the OP to be as succinct as possible. I think I'll update that succinct post to include Acorn's comment as well.

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  4. Edward wrote:
    Methinks you have a big time crush on each of those underaged, school uniform wearing agashis!

    That was just the picture that came with the article. Take it up with the Yonhap photog.

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  5. They might see it as a 'two-fer' - get rid of the dirty hagwons and the dirty foreigners that work there. So much for advancing in the world, Korea.

    Sure, you can close down the public schools... and the hagwons... why not close down the subways, the train system, the grocery stores, the PC bang, and everywhere ELSE people share germs?

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  6. So, they close down the schools for a week or two, then what? Has H1N1 disappeared? Of course not, so there is some validity to your original question, Kushibo.

    Closing down schools and hagwons seems foolish to me. As Chris said, you can't protect people everywhere. Perhaps a director or a principal might opt for it, but a city-wide closing is absurd. All those kids are not going to be sitting at home anyways. They'll be out and about slobbering all over each other.

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  7. Just how many people are employed by the hagwon industry and how would closing hagwons done affect the South Korean economy? It's not just those English teachers that will be affected. Math teachers, science teachers, Korean teachers, Mandarin teachers, art teachers, piano teachers, etc., and many support staff members make up hagwons.

    And what will the government do to fill in the void that hagwons provide for parents who depend on them to basically babysit their kids while they are work keeping the economy running? Especially, as this "pandemic" is not quite as serious as more devastating pandemics like the normal flu or the suicide rate here. Maybe, someone ought to bring that fact up and for the sake of the children, a certain national test needs to be closed down for a while to save lives.

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  8. The expat wrote:
    So, they close down the schools for a week or two, then what? Has H1N1 disappeared? Of course not, so there is some validity to your original question, Kushibo.

    No, H1N1 wouldn't have disappeared, but it buys time, keeping kids out of what are major nexuses of infection for the time it takes to get a large percentage of the population immunized (and for that immunization capability to kick in).

    Closing down schools and hagwons seems foolish to me. As Chris said, you can't protect people everywhere.

    No, you can't. But there are certain places where they are more vulnerable. A room with forty kids presents a higher risk than your living room where the only outside contact is with the guy delivering Kyochon chicken or Dominos.

    Perhaps a director or a principal might opt for it, but a city-wide closing is absurd. All those kids are not going to be sitting at home anyways. They'll be out and about slobbering all over each other.

    Maybe some would be, but not all of them, and even those out and about might be encountering fewer people on the whole. In the aggregate, there would be fewer person-to-person infection-capable connections formed during that time period.

    Moreover, those who are sick or under the weather might feel compelled to go to school if it's in session, but relieved to stay home if it's not. They're much less likely to go out and play if school is out than they would be to go to school if it's in session.

    From a public health standpoint, I think this is sound except for what you do about caring for a kid who can't go to a hagwon or school.

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  9. John from Taejŏn, there are many people who would love to use H1N1 as an excuse to abolish the sunŭng exam this year.

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  10. 수능 will never be cancelled. Too much money has been "invested" in preparation for the test.

    While I don't think hagwons will close down, it certainly would be interesting to see if and how those teachers are compensated for the loss of work.

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  11. Matt brings up a very good point that hagwons can serve as a place for sick kids to exchange their illnesses - particularly H1N1 these days - thus spreading infections between schools.

    I also really like your point, Kushibo, about how closing a school makes it more likely that a sick student will stay at home (under bed rest) while keeping schools open might see them (or their parents) feel obligated to attend classes regardless of their condition.

    To go along with The Expat's comment - that closing every educational institute is foolhardy - maybe a threshold should be created. I.e., if a certain number of cases are confirmed within a particular 동 or 구 public and private schools (including hagwons) should close. Sure, you might get friends from different schools playing together - or mothers meeting at the store and spreading germs - but I can't see whole families traveling outside their 동 on a regular basis. (Okay, I admit that I don't have figures to back that up, but I assume that it's usually only one parent that commutes any distance for work.)

    I do wonder how much of a risk there is from closing down every school though. Not so much from person-to-person contact but rather from giving kids free time that they might spend outdoors in weather that makes it easier for them to get sick ... reducing their immune system's efficiency and opening them up to other illnesses, such as H1N1. I don't know, maybe that's an extremely negligible amount?

    Another aspect I'm curious about is concerning what will happen in all those households where the parents expect their child to be gone for so many hours each day. Family schedules will need to be rearranged one way or another. I made a comment somewhat in jest with a friend who thought his school might shut down -- if public schools shut down but hagwons don't it might see an increase in hagwon enrollment, as parents use it as either a further way for their child to get ahead, or as (educational) 'daycare' services. The likelihood of that happening is probably slim, though.


    Thanks for the link and email, Kushibo. It's much appreciated!

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