Korean inspired cram schools

I read an interesting article this morning in the WaPo about Korean Americans who run cram schools in Northern Virginia and Maryland.

best_academy

Cram schools are more prevalent overseas especially in East Asia where students have intense training after their regular school hours in subjects such as math, english and science. These schools also prepare students for high school and college entrance exams. The Post article talks about cram schools in Northern Virginia which aren’t as intense as those in East Asia.

academy_students

Preparing for More Than a Quiz
Korean-Inspired ‘Cram Schools’ Still Pile On Tests But Also Help Young Students Navigate U.S. Lifestyle

By Michael Alison Chandler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 5, 2009

When Aran Park directed a tutoring center in South Korea, her workday ended at 3 a.m. That’s when her last class let out. “We have a saying in Korea: If you sleep three hours, you succeed; if you sleep four hours, you fail,” she said.

Park opened another tutoring center in the corner of a Centreville office building last year. At the Living Stone Academy, she runs a strict program with daily quizzes and lots of homework, but on a distinctly American schedule that ends by 4 p.m. “It is summer vacation,” she said, laughing. “I don’t want to take away all the fun they deserve.”

Many Koreans who move to the United States are relieved to be rid of the expensive and energy-sapping cram schools where, driven by intense competition to get into top universities, students spend most of their waking hours after the school day ends.

But a new and gentler version of cram school is emerging in the United States. Over the past 15 years, scores of Korean-run academies have opened in strip malls and office buildings in such immigrant enclaves as Ellicott City and Annandale. Names such as Elite Academy and Einstein Academy reflect the educational goals that brought families halfway around the world.

This summer, thousands of Korean American students, along with an increasing number of non-Koreans, will attend them to prepare for next year’s math classes, SAT tests or the entrance exam for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.

The schools are designed to give students a competitive edge, but many offer far more than academic support. They help newcomers adjust to a new culture, new expectations and a dramatically different public school system. For some families, they are a lifeline between the old world and the new.

The article also mentions that some parents don’t find American cram schools rigorous enough so one parent is sending her son to a cram school in Korea.

For some parents, the American-style cram schools are not rigorous enough. Several of Shim’s students are returning to Korea this summer for more-intense programs, he said.

One of those students is Fred Jin, 16, a rising sophomore at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax City. He will spend four weeks at a kind of academic boot camp near Seoul, where study sessions begin at 7:30 a.m. and end at 11:30 p.m.

“Most important thing,” said his mother, Youna Jin, with one finger raised in the air. “No computer.” That means no cellphone, no Facebook, no MP3s.

I don’t have a problem with kids attending these schools during their after school hours and during the summer. But having your child in school from 7:30am to 11:30pm for four weeks is a bit much. That’s longer than adult work hours.  Do these kids get any time to spend outdoors for recreational activities during those hours?  Maybe it’s the American in me, but young folks need some outdoor time especially when you’re getting over 15 hours of intense educational training.   Check out the entire article at the Post.

After reading this article I thought about how this could benefit black folks and whether there are any black families enrolling their children in these type of schools. I did a google and read an article about a black woman who enrolled her sons in a Korean run cram school in New York City. The article was written in 2003 by St. Petersburg Times correspondent Bill Maxwell so I really don’t know how the school has benefited her sons in the long run.

Black families open up, cram education in

By Bill Maxwell
Times Staff Writer
Published October 22, 2003

NEW YORK – Each time I visit my relatives in Harlem, I always inquire about the children, especially the boys.

Harlem, like most other black enclaves elsewhere, destroys too many African-American boys long before they become teenagers, which encouraged me to visit a cousin, Shirley Harrell, a single, divorced mom with two boys – one in third grade, the other in seventh grade. I have always liked her kids because they are polite and easygoing. Shirley, 38, is a full-time department store cashier and a part-time business major at City College.

She clearly understands the vital role that education plays in the lives of her children. The boys love school, and their teachers say they are exemplary students.

Shirley wants the very best for her sons: “Yeah, they do the stuff other boys do – listen to music, play basketball, hang out on 125th Street. But they like doing school work, too. They like to study. I’m trying to get ahead, but it’s been hard. I didn’t have anybody to tell me how to get ahead. I had to learn on my own. It won’t be that way for my children. I’m doing all I can to give my kids a head start. I’m teaching them how.”

For the second year, Shirley’s sons are attending a Korean cram school in Queens. Each afternoon, she and the boys ride the subway to a storefront. There, the boys, along with 45 other students, study for three hours with certified math, English and science teachers. On Saturday mornings, they make the trip again. The boys study for four more hours.

One tangible payoff is the improvement of the boys’ grades. They went from earning C’s and the occasional B to making all A’s and B’s. The grades are important, but Shirley says she cares more about the boys’ new love of learning: “Up here in Harlem, they don’t have a lot of role models their own age. A lot of these kids don’t open a book after they get off the subway. My kids just don’t fit in because they love to study. That makes me feel bad.

“The cram school is different. Those Korean kids study very hard. My boys are the only blacks in the school, but they fit in. I mean, it’s normal to work hard. Nobody says they’re acting white. When they see all these other kids studying, my kids don’t feel weird. The peer pressure is positive. Studying has become a habit – second nature.”

Shirley is one of a growing number of African-American parents in Harlem to discover the benefits of the cram schools, long an integral part of Far Eastern education.

One of the things Shirley Harrell mentions is that while her sons still enjoy listening to music, playing basketball and hanging out, they enjoyed doing their school work too.  Alot of times these kids (at least in Maryland and D.C.) don’t touch a book after they leave the school grounds.   Instead of hanging out at the mall and the streets they could be spending some of their after school time at cram schools or similar school settings.  With an increasing number of black and latino students dropping out of school we need more parents like Shirley Harrell.  The United States compared to other countries is falling behind when it comes to academics so maybe cram schools are a good idea for all races.  I found this interesting:

“A lot of people, even some of our kinfolks, told me I was pushing my kids too hard,” she said. “I told them to get lost. When people don’t understand what you’re doing, you have to shut them out and do what you know is right. My kids don’t complain. They love making good grades. They really want to study hard.”

Her own relatives. You would think your kinfolk would be encouraging but it doesn’t always work out that way so you have to shut them out.

Check out the entire article here at the St. Petersburg Times.

One response

  1. The Korean and other educational systems in Asia (and in places like the Caribbean) cause this intense pressure. Imagine a system where if you didn’t get into an Ivy League School you were doomed for life to hold a low paying job and to have little success. In the Caribbean where my parents are from if you don’t have above a certain score on the final high school exam then you are shuttled into vocational education point blank. You won’t get in to *any* college. Only those who make above a certain score are allowed in. Even before that there are tests that determine which high school you are allowed into. This is what many Asian kids are facing across Asia. This is why they are extremely focused on education. It’s a sink or swim situation with little gray area in between.

    The upside to the American system is that everyone has a chance, but the downside is that a lot in education gets left by the wayside especially for blacks and other minorities.

    I’m black and if I had children I would totally send them to an Asian cram school. I think Black people should enroll their kids in them en masse but they are hard to find. You have to go to Chinatown or K-town and ask around.

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