Hagwon Moms

Many foreigners coming to Korea will encounter one of the deadliest creatures in the county: hagwon moms. Hagons, or franchise schools are private schools that offer after school classes for various ages, but often have day classes for kindergarten and early elementary students. Since these are private schools tuition can be quite high. Parents are very interested in getting their money’s worth from the school and from their kids so a lot of pressure is put on the teachers.

Six months in, I have to confess that I’ve found my experiences to be very frustrating, so for the good of other teachers, I would record some observations. I know plenty of teachers who have had much better and far worse experiences, so as with everything, it varies.

Since many of the parents aren’t fluent in English, the Korean teachers often bear the brunt of this in the form of frequent phone calls. My co-teacher last semester went from pretty cool and easy-going to a quivering, highly strung mass of nerves over the course of six months. The moms from our class seemed to call her everyday about things like their kids having an argument on the school bus (where we don’t even supervise them) to their dissatisfaction with their five year old not speaking full, grammatically correct English sentences yet.

One mother pulled her son from my class because I put him in time-out during playtime. He smacked another child in the chest and called his teachers Korean swear words, but he is apparently too sensitive for time-out. Many children seem to run their families. Mothers often tell me their child is late for school because they “didn’t want to wake up” because they stayed up late the night before. Things like bedtime are not enforced and by some of the behavior these kids exhibit, not many rules are.

The area I’m teaching in is a suburb just outside of Seoul. The district is full of new money being lavishly spent. I have heard other teachers refer to this parenting style as being rampant in this district. Perhaps to distinguish themselves from their strict, traditional parent,this generation is trying to go the opposite way and let their kids do whatever they want. I feel like that can be far more harmful than being strict. Many parents are afraid to discipline their children. They want the schools to teach them how to behave, but dont’t understand that sometimes discipline means the kids will be unhappy for a little while. That’s okay, that’s how they learn.

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