My goal to learn something new every day
On the subway home from work tonight, I saw this series of tweets by Anne Hendler:
Two brothers arrived in my school. Fluent in English. Home-schooled (illegally). Nice to meet kids who haven’t been beaten down by Korean ed
— ɹǝlpuǝɥ ǝuuɐ (@AnneHendler) February 6, 2015
The younger brother is 10 and I recommended sending him back home. His mom is doing just fine without the stress of a traditional hagwon. — ɹǝlpuǝɥ ǝuuɐ (@AnneHendler) February 6, 2015
While I obviously find all of Anne’s tweets interesting, it was something she mentioned in her first tweet that really caught my attention: The bit about being home-schooled illegally. I inquired what was meant by illegally, because I hadn’t really thought about it before. This is what Anne said: “until the age of 16 school is mandatory in Korea. And apparently home-schooling doesn’t count. My HS class debated about it.” followed by “i guess the law isn’t well enforced. from what i understand, their parents might pay a fine (according to my boss).”
And while I thought of it, it occurred to me that I don’t think I’ve ever met a student who has been home-schooled here in Korea. So I decided to look into it a little more.
I came across the website of the Home School Legal Defense Association, which is a non-profit organization based in the US that fights for the rights of parents around the world to be able to choose whether to home-school their children. On their page about South Korea, they say this:
Compulsory Education Ages:
Children ages 7 to 15 are subject to the federal compulsory attendance law. High school is not mandated.
Homeschooling is not specifically permitted by law, but neither is it prohibited. The South Korean government announced plans to begin the process to legalize homeschooling in 2008, yet the legalization process has been at a standstill. The legal climate for homeschooling has not changed substantially since then.
Number of Homeschoolers:
Estimated at 600 to 1,000 families
So it looks like home-schooling in Korea is a bit of a grey area. Searching Google for “홈 스쿨” (which is just a transliteration of ‘home school’; there doesn’t appear to be a Korean word for it) there are certainly a lot of pages and websites on the topic. Quite a few, which are all in Korean, describe the ways that parents can home school their children.
And then I found this news article (in Korean) on the Joong Ang Daily site from 2010, which describes a celebrity Korean couple’s attempts to home school their children. The couple in question are actors Shin Ae-ra and Cha In-pyo. Shin and Cha made headlines in South Korea in 2005 after they adopted two baby girls. Adoption in Korea was then, and still is today, very much a taboo topic as this BBC article from last month describes. In the Joong Ang Daily article, it confirms that home-schooling is indeed not allowed in Korea. However, it goes on to say that if parents decide to home school their children they have to pay a fine. And the amount? 1,000,000 KRW, which is currently about $US910. Given the intense pressure on a lot of students here in Korea, it’s easy to see why some parents might like to go the home-schooling way. Then again, on second thoughts, it’s often the Korean parents who are the source of the pressure…
So, essentially everything Anne said in that handful of tweets was correct, not that I would ever have any doubt not to believe her.