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A big change seems to be awaiting students with the new school year just around the corner.
Schools here in Korea are readying themselves, to operate just five days a week, whereas before, students had to go to school on every other Saturday.
And for more on this new system and what people think about it, we have our news reporter Lee Ji-yoon joining us in the studio today.
[Reporter : ] Good to see you two.
So it looks like Korea is going to be joining many Western nations, as well as China and Japan, in allowing students to go to school FIVE days a week, instead of for SIX days.
Compared to last year, when the government announced its plan, to fully implement the five-day school week in Korea starting in 2012, it looks like many schools are busily preparing to run the new system, so that the changes will be received well by students, as well as parents and teachers.
So with just a couple of weeks left, before most schools here in Korea start the five-day school week, I met with some teachers, students and parents, to hear what THEY think about the new system.
The upcoming school year here in Korea will begin with a big change this year -- no school on Saturdays!
[Reporter : Lee Ji-yoon, [email protected]] "Starting next month, most school classrooms here in Korea will look like this on Saturdays -- empty. This is because schools will be implementing the five-day school week starting March. However, this new system has raised debate among parents, students and teachers".
Up until now, schools alternated between five-day and six-day school weeks but starting in March, all elementary, junior high and high schools in the nation can choose to adopt the five-day system.
If schools do decide to go with a five-day school week, this means the number of school days will be cut down from 205 days a year, to around 190.
But because the required number of school hours will remain the same, some students are not so sure they will like spending longer days at school.
[Interview : Park Jae-beom, Middle school student] "I like the fact that I can now spend more time with family and friends on the weekends but I don't like how I have to be at school longer on weekdays".
When the government announced last year that, the new system will be implemented starting in 2012, many teachers welcomed the idea, whereas parents were half-worried and half-hopeful about what their children could do outside of school on Saturdays.
A recent survey showed that, over 96 percent of teachers and 80-percent of students are in favor of implementing the five-day school week.
Parents in favor of the change, however, stood at the lowest among the three groups at 66 percent.
Principal Park Rae-jin of Geumgye Elementary School says, the change, is meant to benefit students.
[Interview : Park Rae-jin, Principal Geumgye Elementary School] "Starting July 1st of last year, the 40-hour work week expanded to all small sized firms. So in line with that change, I think it's the right move for schools to give students Saturdays off and have the weekends to themselves. By doing so, I believe students will perform better at school and get better grades.
Although, some critics say that, the five-day week could fuel the already overheated pursuit of private education, Park says, school classrooms and libraries will remain open on Saturdays to all students under the supervision of one or two teachers.
[Interview : Park Rae-jin, Principal Geumgye Elementary School] "We are going to assign 1 to 2 teachers every Saturday to oversee students and run fun programs. Parents should not worry about leaving their kids alone at home since we will be supervising programs and we will also open study rooms and libraries for any student that wants to come".
Students at Seoul National University Girls' Middle School have been going to school from Monday to Friday for the past semester, because the school decided to try out the new system early and see what changes needed to be made in order to implement it successfully.
About 20 percent of the students at the middle school took part in special classes offered on Saturdays.
[Interview : Oh Ji-un, Teacher Seoul National Univ. Girls' Middle School] "A five-day school week means much more than just no school on Saturdays. I believe that even if there's only one student who signs up for a Saturday program, the school needs to run the program and make it worthwile because it's the school's responsibility to provide a place for a needy student. With that mindset, I think schools can succeed in implementing this system".
A parent of a 2nd grade student, Han Soo-jung welcomed the change saying, she will now be able to take her daughter on weekend trips and spend more quality time as a family.
[Interview : Han Soo-jung, Parent ] "When I used to work, I wanted my child to go to school on Saturdays so I wouldn't have to worry about leaving her at home alone. But since I'm a stay-home mom now, I prefer my child to spend more time with me and my husband on weekends, so we can go on trips together. I think it's inefficient that my kid goes to school just for 2 to 3 hours when she can use that time doing something she likes".
Despite the worries and expectations about the new five-day school week system, most students, parents and teachers agree that the key to successfully implementing it will be how well individual schools prepare for the change.
Ji-yoon, I know that you went to school in the United States meaning you didn't have to go school on Saturdays.
So how do you, as someone who never had to go to school on Saturdays, feel about Korea making the change nationwide starting next month[Reporter : ] Well, I think since Korea is under a mandatory 40-hour, 5-day work week now, this new system is a good idea for students to spend more time with their parents and friends.
However, I do understand those who are concerned about having Saturdays off, since giving students too much free time, could possibly lead to social problems like, playing too many games online.
I think the key to success, lies in how much effort schools put in, to developing productive AND well-planned programs, for their students on Saturdays, since good programs such as, music lessons, fitness programs and volunteering programs, can attract students.
This not only tackles the problem of inefficiency, but also helps students spend their Saturdays in a worthwhile manner.
I guess we'll have to wait and see if schools will indeed be able to make a successful transition to a five-day school week.
Thanks for coming in today, Ji-yoon.
[Reporter : ] Thanks for having me.
Source : www.arirang.co.kr/New... ( English Korean )
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