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English Kindergartens in Korea
2012년 02월 29일 (수) YeongJoo Lee, Staff Reporter yjlee@worldyannews.com

For kids' personality and creativity, a regular kindergarten is better.

Ms. Kim Joonmi has been working for an English kindergarten in Gunpo, Gyeonggi-do.
Recently Kim has been busy preparing for the English recital. She practices her 7-year-old homeroom kids to dance, sing, and make a speech. All the performances are done in English.

Kim began to work for the English kindergarten in March, 2011. She had worked for a trade company before. While working for the company, she worked 6 days a week and had to struggle with a heavy workload. She looked for a relatively less-tiring job, and what she chose to do was this teaching position at the kindergarten.


Now Kim knows that being a teacher is not easy, either. She says that it is never easy to take care of and teach preschool kids and talk with their parents. Especially, she gets stressed out while talking to picky parents and it is even worse than the time she worked for the trade company. She says she is ready to quit.

If you are parents who have preschool children, you will probably wonder about English kindergartens. How much is tuition? How is English class taught? Does the curriculum have art and gym classes like a regular kindergarten? How many kids are in one class?

- Would you tell us about basic information about the English kindergarten? For example, how many children are there in one classroom? How much is the monthly tuition?

It depends. In this kindergarten, 10 children in one class is the maximum capacity. In the largest class here there are 8 students. As to classes, there are 3 divisions based on age: 5-year-old, 6-year-old, and 7-year-old classes. Each division is divided again based on the length(level) of their study(English).

Well, I don't know exactly about the tuition, for it's the consultant teacher's task. As far as I know, it is about 600,000 won monthly. Regularly or irregularly, they have to pay for textbooks or materials, and it costs around 10,000won ~ 50,000won.

There is also monthly lunch money. It's about 70,000원. There could be other expenses, but I don't know exactly. A few weeks ago, I watched a comedy program on TV and its comedian said that you would have to pay 4,000,000won for a special kindergarten and the tuition is just for one semester.

When I heard that, I thought of the kindergarten's tuition and actually the amount of the tuition for one semester is exactly like what he said. What he was saying was not a joke! The classes include both native teachers' classes and bilingual teachers' classes. During the class, the bilingual teacher must speak English only.

- Is an English kindergarten really a good environment to learn English? Are the kids there good at English? How well do they speak English? 

Well, it depends on how long they have been studying in English kindergartens. For example, my homeroom kids are 7 years old, and they have been studying in English kindergarten for 3 years since they were 5 years old.

These kids are really good at speaking English. Their communication in English is perfect, and they fully understand what teachers say. Some people don't believe it. They think the kids communicate just by displaying some words, but that's not true.

These kids speak a long sentence like a native kid, and what they say usually has a perfect structure. Their pronunciation is quite good, too. When I first saw these kids, I was really surprised, for they had never been abroad. Well, just one thing - the kids are not very good at writing.

-  It sounds like any kids can become like that if they study in English kindergarten for 3 years. Is that really so?

Well... maybe it is by mere chance that there are smart kids in my class. Still, if a kid attends English kindergarten for 3 years, he or she can speak English quite well, I think. The 6-year-old kids who have been studying for 2 years speak English better that the 7-year-old kinds who have been studying for 1 year.

- The kids in English kindergarten seem to be from wealthy families. Are they really so?

Yes, most of them have rich parents. Some kids parents are physician and other kids' parents are office workers at large companies. But, not all of them. A child's mother works as a helper on the kindergarten's shuttle bus to get a discount on tuition. Some moms work part time so that they can pay tuition. Also, there are many children here whose parents have divorced. 

-  Are there gym and art classes in curriculum?

Yes, but it can be different in other places. In the kindergarten I'm working for now, there is gym and art class once a week. Art is taught by a Korean teacher who has art-related certificates. The class is taught in Korean.

Gym is taught by a teacher from a children's physical education company. This class is also taught in Korean. I heard that in a neighbouring English kindergarten a native teacher teaches gym class.

-  This is a teaching position, but it's about taking care of kids. What part of this job is the most difficult?

Talking with parents was the most difficult thing to me. Most parents are very sensitive even about a little thing. Because I am not a person who majored in children's education, I don't know what to do when something unexpected happens. Some parents are very kind and polite when they talk to teachers, but there are also parents talk to teachers in rude manner. They say they have to be treated well because they pay a lot. 

-  How would you summarize your experience in an English kindergarten? 

I think children should learn while playing freely. They are preschool kids, but they are already stressed out because of lots of homework and study. They are fine during lunch time and breaks, but when the class starts they begin to have stomachache. I thought it was fake illness, but now I understand them.

Also, I don't like the rule that the kid who speaks Korean should receive punishment. I heard that the neighbouring English kindergarten has the same rule. When parents learn that their kid has received such punishment, they complain about it. However, when their kid's English does not seem to improve, they complain about it too.

It's my person opinion, but for kids' personality and creativity, a regular kindergarten is better. I've heard that regular kindergartens also have its English-learning system and it is a good quality, too.

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