I started a project to give Humphreys residents, especially families, more options for their education, personal enrichment and daycare needs beyond the main gate. Camp Humphreys is in a state of massive transition and until the dust settles from all the construction and movement of units, families are feeling the strain. As of March, 2017, this is going to be a tough year for kids looking to attend daycare and enjoy extra-curricular activities onpost. Read the notes here for Humphreys most recent town hall meeting explaining the steps for the transition.
So what am I trying to do? My goal is to walk into area Hagwons and see if the teachers are receptive to accepting foreigner students who speak zero Korean. So far, I’ve successfully tortured a bunch of unsuspecting Hagwon teachers with my atrocious Korean and then recruited more innocent parents into my plans to scout out local Daycares. I am extremely grateful to everyone who is helping me with this endeavor. I knew it would take a lot of hours but I feel that its important for Humphreys’ families to have more options than three daycares and one TaeKwonDo teacher. Variety is the spice of Life, right?
Since this project is going to take me at least another month, I’ll post on my Facebook Page with new updates. It is slow going and my Korean isn’t great, but I felt it was important to approach Hagwons as myself and to not bring a translator. If a teacher was too nervous to talk with me, as an American with intermediate Korean skills, then having a large group of foreigners with zero Korean wouldn’t work at all. It’s not my goal to force anyone to accept foreigners but to encourage Hagwons and make them aware that we are looking for their services.
I will add everything to the South of Seoul app so that families can browse and take advantage of the review system. If you are using a Hagwon, please please please leave a review! I miss online reviews so much and the South of Seoul app is filling a desperate need for foreigners in Pyeongtaek. Help us populate the app with new submissions and ratings.
What is a Hagwon
- Hagwons are private academies here in Korea that offer a variety of subjects such as music, math tutoring, ping pong, Taekwondo, art, sewing, cooking etc.
- Hagwons are available for adults and Elementary, Middle and Highschool students. Some Hagwons will accept Kindergarteners or preschoolers.
- Hagwons for school aged children open in the early afternoon and can run late into the evening, especially highschoolers who study for college exams. Adult Hagwons can have morning or evening hours.
- Students who attend a Hagwon can expect class every day during the week, Monday- Friday, for one hour a day. Children can attend multiple Hagwons right after school which keeps them busy until dinnertime or late into the night. For the working parent, this also acts as a daycare system for elementary students.
- Most Hagwon’s are privately run and are not associated with local, government-run, school districts. But expect to see them on every street corner near school districts. Some Hagwons do use nationally recognized curriculum.
- Each Hagwon is unique based upon their teachers and curriculum. Parents choose Hagwons because of location, cost, curriculum offered, online ratings, recommendations from friends and family etc.
- There is a greater variety of Hagwons in big city centers than rural areas.
- Some Hagwon’s have a bus that will pick your child up from school then drop them off at a requested area after they are finished.
- This service costs extra.
- Hagwon buses are sometimes driven by the same teachers giving the class so they will not have time to pick up or drop off kids at private residences. They can only pick up from one or two local schools.
- Buses may be limited to elementary school children to make sure they get safely to and from class. Middle schoolers and up may be expected to walk or take public transportation.
Some things to understand about Children’s Hagwons as a foreigner
- Like most businesses in Korea, Hagwons use Naver, Daum, Kakaostory etc to advertise and provide information to customers. Non-Korean speakers will have a difficult time using these social media platforms and will need to rely on friends, family and word of mouth to find foreigner friendly Hagwons and daycares.
- Hagwons focus on the children and their independence. You won’t see parents anxiously watching from the side lines to see how their child is doing and yelling at them when they are goofing around. Kids are expected to work hard and if they don’t, the teachers can only do their best to help them refocus.
- Some Hagwons may not accept students who can’t speak a basic level of Korean. This might sound rude but just think about it. What would you do if someone handed you their Martian kid who only spoke Martian? What if they needed to use the bathroom, how would you know they weren’t asking for a glass of water? What if he starts to yell and cry; Is he sick, should you call the ambulance? Or did he really want the red paint but the other kid took it and the only paint left was his least favorite, Neptune blue?
- Remember, teachers are people too and if they aren’t comfortable with taking on a foreign student don’t force the issue. However,
- Hagwons are a business and if there is enough demand, they may hire more teachers to accommodate foreign students.
- Some Hagwons, like martial arts, will have a teacher with enough English to talk to parents and to help a student with basic questions. Otherwise, the teachers will speak only in Korean which can be a good thing. For example, TaeKwonDo teachers speak Korean in the states so after studying here, students can go back home and wow their new TaeKwonDo masters with their Korean language skills.
- Most Hagwons charge per month and children will attend class 1-5 times a week. Payment methods depend on the Hagwon but for foreigners, paying in won is the easiest way to avoid bank troubles back home. Costs may be similar for Hagwons of the same type.
- On average, Younger children will go to Hagwons earlier in the day because they get let out of school earlier. Highschoolers and adults will attend later in the evening after work and school.
- Hagwons are usually cheaper than taking lessons back in the states. Here in Korea, my son goes to TaeKwonDo 5 times a week for around $100 a month and my adult one-hour private piano lessons are around $35 a class. Another check mark on my bucket list: learn to play the piano.
- I might be exaggerating but everyone in Korea has a cellphone, even elementary students, which makes translating Korean a breeze by sending questions and messages to teachers through text and using translation services.