Never thought I’d see the day, but my boss just called to let me know that he was closing up the academy for the day due to the typhoon (at this point I think it’s actually classified as a tropical storm but whatever). In my six years here there have been a few typhoons roll through, but I’ve always had to battle my way to work, usually losing an umbrella to the wind along the way — as happened not two weeks ago — then arriving at the school soaking wet only to go through the day with only the handful of students, who are cursed with hardcore parents, showing up. Ironically, I’ve had a snow-day here before in this very temperate part of Korea, but this is my first day-off due to a storm. And I couldn’t be happier. I actually did a little jig after getting off the phone with my boss.
A quick check on facebook shows that all the public school teachers are stuck in their schools desk warming for the day. This is because school policy in Korea is dictated by what school administrators THINK parents will THINK. Rather than make a logical decision to send a mass text message to all teachers and students, which would take 5 minutes of their time they instead wait and wait to see what the weather will do, all the while forcing teachers to come in “just in case”. Then on days like today when the weather remains severe, they finally tell the teachers to start calling the students about 10 minutes before classes are set to start. This of course means that some students will already be at the school or shortly arriving and then have to be turned right back around and sent home. Meanwhile you have a bunch of pissed of teachers stewing in anger all day long at the school.
You see, school administrators and academy owners (like my boss) alike, spend nearly every waking moment concerned about what parents’ opinions of them and their institutes will be. In some respects this is a necessary evil of the system here, especially for academy owners who are stuck in perpetually fierce competition with dozens of other academies. Money is their main concern, educating children, a distant second. Public schools, while not directly competing for revenue, do need to keep their enrollments high in order to receive funding from the government. To keep enrollments high they need to be concerned with two things: Test scores and the whims of parents, particularly mothers. Mothers here tend to equate time spent in school with high test scores, which is why the atrocious school system in Korea that sees kids spend at least 12 hours a day in school continues to thrive. At least on the face of it, that’s the excuse used to justify not skipping any school days, no matter what.
Basically this whole issue of stubbornly refusing to give everyone a day off, boils down to the principals of the schools not wanting parents to think that they are lazy or unconcerned with the education of THEIR child.
There’s a whole lot more at work here, but I just realized that in order to explain more, I’d have to write a researched and well organized essay on the whole Korean education system, and why it is such bullshit. Instead I’ll leave it at that for now.
I think I’ll watch an episode of Mad Men, and then if this climate-related craziness calms down a bit, maybe I’ll head out and get cranked on coffee again.