Japan, Singapore and South Korea.

These 3 Asian countries, just to name a few, are among the best in the world for academic education. Parents can be assured that children are receiving a quality education.

But what are the factors that explain such success? What role does extra school support play in recognition of this excellence? 

Superprof will take you on a trip to the Asian continent to explain the important role played by support classes in the Asian education system...

Asia: the Pressure to Perform and Private Remedial Teaching

The PISA (program for international student assessment) programme is an international programme that records data, reports, manuals and questions from the worldwide assessment of 15-year old students in reading, mathematics and science. Aimed at measuring the performance systems of countries. It is operated under the OECD.

Every year, since 2000, a ranking of the world's main nations is established.

One of the last surveys, conducted in 2015 and published on December 6, 2016, gives the rankings of different countries in 3 educational fields: mathematics, reading and science. Here are some of the most recent winners:

  • In mathematics, Singapore takes the first spot with 564 points just ahead of Hong Kong (548 points) and Macao (544 points),
  • In sciences, Singapore receives another gold star with 556 points followed by Japan (538 points) and Estonia (534 points),
  • Finally, in reading, Singapore officially guarantees a hat trick with 535 points, ahead of Hong Kong, again, who is tied with Canada both receiving 527 points. Finland ranks fourth in this core subject.

Just to give you an idea, the United Kingdom is ranked 27th in mathematics receiving its lowest score in the PISA results since the start of the tests in 2000. The results in sciences and reading are a bit better but leave a lot to be desired with the UK ranking 15th in the former and 22nd in the latter. Something has to be done here to improve these pathetic results.

If we look at the rankings a little bit closer, Japan and South Korea rank among the top 10 nations in all 3 tested subjects (except for the sciences where Korea is in 11th place).

What explains such fantastic performances?

If we dig a little deeper, we realize that school support, in all its forms: academic support courses, private at-home tutoring, personalized classes, homework help,...is all a key factor for academic success in Asian countries.

The high price of success often includes many concerted efforts and many sacrifices, health-wise and financially. The article will go on to explain this later on...

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Is Japan slowly diminishing the need for extra school help and private tutoring?

Homework help and remedial support can be sought out in any after school "juku." (Source: Visual Hunt)

In the Land of the Rising Sun, "Jukus", also known as cram schools, are private companies providing personal tutoring and refresher or advanced subject courses for students who are wishing to prepare for university entrance exams in an optimal way.

"Jukus" have been operating in Japan since the 1970's, parents send their children to these schools to start learning before they enter into formal education at a primary level.

In a New York Times article written in 1992, Steven R. Weisman explained the phenomenon of Japanese parents enlisting their students in "Jukus":

"Japanese spent $10.9 billion on tutoring and cram schools last year, according to the institute, including $9 billion on jukus for students in the ninth grade or below -- almost double the figure spent seven years ago."

Has this phenomenon decreased in recent years? Not at all. Students continue to seek out the help of a private tutor.

In 2010, 1.55 million students in Japan received supplemental instruction from a personal instructor. That number represents about 15% of all primary and secondary school students.

Many Japanese students both children and adolescents are having a dual education:

  1. In educational establishments approved by the Japanese Education System,
  2. and in Jukus, where students will deepen their knowledge and prepare for entrance exams to prestigious universities.

This way has proven to be successful in making sure that students get accepted to the best secondary schools and in the future, the best universities in the country!

Discover tales of tutoring from around the world...

Singapore, the Champion of Private Tutoring

The observation is edifying.

In Singapore, more than 90% of primary school students attend private tutoring classes or other remedial courses.

In this small country of only 5.5 million inhabitants, it is estimated that parents spend nearly $680 million (over £518 million) to provide supplemental instruction classes for their offspring.

Other sources estimate that the private tutoring market is worth more than $1 billion (£762 million) a year. That's a big business!

If we compare these figures with those of Japan, in relation to the population of the country, we can say that the private tuition market weighs twice as much in Singapore than it does in Japan.

The results of this intensive school support are impressive: the first place in all 3 categories (reading, mathematics, science) examined in the PISA competition, making Singapore the best-educated country in the world according to the OECD!

One of the country's most important exams is the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), which takes place at 12 years of age. More than the success rate, obtaining a high score on this test is essential to obtain access to the best schools in the country, including the "express stream" that turns the secondary school program to 3 years instead of 4 years. This results in nice financial savings for the parents!

Antony Folk, a former professor of economics at a Singaporean public school, left classical education and founded his own private tutoring company because of the immediate success it brought.

Some parents are now willing to shell out up to $30,000 (over £22,800) to have Antony Folk as a private educator for their children! 

Other professionally trained teachers have followed this very lucrative career path opened up by Antony Folk and these teachers and tutors have become millionaires today!

There is a persuasiveness of remedial classes both private and in a large or small group. A similar trend can be observed in Europe and North America. Private tutoring has become a worldwide need.

The best tutors (tutors uk and abroad) are passionate about academic coaching, improve the student's study skills and prepare individualized lessons for test prep, homework help and academic advising.

Private Lessons in South Korea: Hagwon Madness

South Korea is a striking example of the importance of academic success...

82% of South Korean youngsters attend university after completing secondary school, the highest of all of the countries tested by the OECD, according to an article written by The Economist.

Every year, on the second Thursday of November, the whole country literally stops breathing. This is indeed the most important day for more than 600,000 Korean high school students who pass the "suneung", the equivalent of the A-Levels, essential to integrate into one of the 3 most distinguished universities in South Korea:

  • Seoul,
  • Korea,
  • or Yonsei.

During the language test, which requires listening to a recording, the government even forces planes to stay on the ground so as not to disturb the listening of the young students!

To succeed on this test scored on 500, an infernal rhythm is imposed at the schools and a fierce competition is established between the students.

Join the discussion: does Europe lead the private tutoring industry?

Korea students are exhausted
Students in South Korea study so much during the day that they develop chronic fatigue. Finding a comfortable nap place can be quite difficult! (Source: Visual Hunt)

Let's look at the school schedule of Hye-Min Park, a typical South Korean teenager, to get an idea of the excruciating daily schedule of secondary school students:

She rises at 6.30am, is at school by 8 am, finishes at 4 pm, (or 5 pm if she has a club), then pops back home to eat. She then takes a bus to her second school shift of the day, at a private crammer or "hagwon", where she has lessons from 6 pm until 9pm. She spends another two hours in what she calls self-study back at school, before arriving home after 11 pm. She goes to bed at 2 am, and rises in the morning at 6.30am to do it all over again.

This is not an abnormal schedule. It is one experienced by the grand majority of teenagers in South Korea. "Hagwons" are cram schools that support about 80% of Korean children from kindergarten to university.

The school tutoring market has recently been evaluated by the South Korean Ministry of National Education at over 11.5 billion pounds.

At the end of public school classes (which end around 4 pm), the "helicopter parents" transport their children from one private tutoring institute to another, renowned for its expertise in mathematics (algebra, trigonometry, geometry), sciences (chemistry and physics) or foreign languages (French, English, Japanese etc.).

Students and their families are so obsessed with success that the government had to legislate and prohibit school tutoring after 10 pm, to prevent children in primary school from studying until midnight.

Hye-Min Park mentioned earlier, is quoted:

"She says she would like to get more sleep but it's her job to overcome it. To get the qualifications to follow her dream career as a teacher she has to work hard she says, and besides she likes studying, and learning new things."

With ambitions like this success is inevitable!

Find out how students in Africa benefit from private tutoring!

Extremely Expensive Tutoring Sessions

Many families are forced to make significant financial efforts for tutoring classes, private academic sessions and other remedial help.

Several hundred pounds are spent per month per student and budgets of nearly £1,000 are common among well-off families.

The OECD estimates that Japanese families $12 billion (£9.1 billion) on "juku" the name that is given to private classes and academic institutes!

In Hong Kong alone fees can range from about HK$150 to HK$200 per hour (£14-19), with each class lasting for 60 to 75 minutes.

According to Modern Education’s 2017 annual report, the top five paid tutors earned between HK$2 million and HK$10.5 million in annual salaries.

Asian countries have seen the positive effects hourly one on one tutoring services have on the success of their children.

Asian Academic Excellence: the other side of the coin

The competition between students to enter into the best secondary schools or universities sometimes poses serious problems:

  • Chronic fatigue for South Korean students due to too many hours studying,
  • Abandonment of leisure activities such as sports or other social events, which are essential for positive brain reinforcement,
  • A sense of isolation and loneliness,
  • Extreme cases of anxiety.

The race for good grades pays a heavy price in young students.

What does a typical school day look like in Asia?
The race for academic excellence can leave students so busy that they begin to miss out on social activities and sports events. These are essential for the well-being of students. (Source: Visual Hunt)

According to a survey conducted by the OECD, South Korea ranks 30th out of 38 countries for the life satisfaction of students.

About 9% of South Korean high school students had experienced suicidal thoughts more than three times. The proportion for elementary school students was at 5.6% and middle school students at 6.5%, states an article from the Korea Herald

These results are due to the long hours of studying and general dissatisfaction of the pupils.

On October 21, 2016, an 11-year-old Singaporean boy committed suicide after failing his exams, throwing himself off the 17th floor of his apartment building.

A tragedy that could continue to occur if school authorities do not tackle the problem of overworking its students.

Now that you are well informed with the Asian continent and private tutoring, check out more of Superprof's article to discover the absolute opposite phenomenon that occurs in Africa and South America.

Also learm more about tutoring around the world...

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