Private School Obsession Spreads to Early Childhood Education

The latest development in the ultra-competitive world of Korean education is private schooling for toddlers and infants. In recent years, Korea’s private education system has attracted praise from The Wall Street Journal and scorn from Koreans themselves, and has suffered increasingly stiff regulation related to college entrance exam preparation. In comparison, textbooks, home-schooling, and education software aimed at infants is a relatively undeveloped and unrestricted market.

Koreans are divided when it comes to the importance of private schooling for children who haven’t even had their first day of public school. While comments online were almost unanimously critical of the idea, they also acknowledged the difficulty facing parents who go against the trend and don’t put their young children through private school classes.

An iPad application for teaching English to infants. The program is saying, “Hello children! Welcome to Magic Nanny world. Let’s push each button, saying watermelons, cherries, bananas, and blueberries.”

Article from Segye Ilbo:

Mega-Corporations Have an Eye on Infant Education Market

Megastudy, Daesung diversify their business and target younger children..

by Yoon Jeero

There is a new target market for private education. Government regulations have restricted college entrance exam prep classes, notably through greater reliance on public tools like EBS, but they have had the unintended effect of driving education companies toward the market for infants and preschoolers. Some experts worry that the infant education market, which was already squeezed due to the general decrease in the infant and elementary child population, will become a battlefield. The fallout from the intense competition could negatively affect parents and their children.

Megastudy, the top provider of private education for middle and high school students, has recently had its eye on the infant educational content market. Last year, it hired Choi Bongsu, former president of Woongjin ThinkBig, considered the best when it comes to the infant book market. Megastudy is seeking a foothold in the infant education market as it has reported its first year of negative growth since the company was first established. The slowdown is due to the increasing trend of selecting questions for college entrance exam from EBS books (nearly seventy percent of test content is taken from these low-price textbooks). As its growth rate slows, it has started to earnestly seek business diversification.

Daesung hagwon, which targeted only college prep students for nearly fifty years, has designed educational programs for curious young students, including preschool children, and launched a textbook instructing elementary school students on how to write history essays. Language institutes such as Chungdahm and Jeongsang JLS, which were targeting elementary and middle school students, have also launched English books, teaching aids, and electronic pen software for infants.

In addition, companies which have already been focusing on the preschool and elementary market are also looking at younger age groups. Kyowon, known for the home-school book “Red Pen”, launched a home visit program encouraging interaction between a mother and a baby between the ages of zero and two years.

Despite cutthroat competition among private education companies for the infant education market, the rate of growth for the market overall remains low due to a decreasing infant population. The sales of home-school books for the top four education companies have remained stagnant at ₩2 trillion ($1.8 billion) since 2007.

According to an employee at a college exam prep school, “while we can’t move freely because of government regulations on secondary education, when it comes to infants and preschoolers, we actually receive a lot of support from the government. Therefore, we believe that products like smart software tools for infants are likely to expand in the future.”

Below, an illustration of the types of “anxiety marketing” used by private education companies throughout a child’s early life:

  • A home-school book salesperson says to mother who has a 3-year-old child, “These days, there are so many blanks in textbooks for elementary students. how will your child ever figure out all of the answers by himself?”
  • A director of an English hagwon says to a mother who has a 4-year-old child, “To prepare for university admissions, your child should start training in English essays and presentations from now on.”
  • A director of a playgroup hagwon says to a mother who has a 5-year-old child, “Your child has never gotten a teaching aid program? In comparison with his other friends who got training from X company, your child’s recognition of patterns is lacking.”
  • A director of an English hagwon says to a mother who has a 5-year-old child who studied for over two years in America, “In our hagwon, there are lots of children who have lived in America. Your child should study more and then we can allow him to get in.”
  • A chief of counseling for an English hagwon says to a mother who has a 6-year-old child, “Your child can’t understand English at all. I think your method of teaching him only with home-school books has ruined his ability. Why have you neglected your children?”
  • A pediatric psychiatrist says to a mother who has a 7-year-old child who speaks slowly, “You shouldn’t expect your child to study well. He needs constant therapy.”

marketing of private education

Comments from Nate:


These people are crazy for money, filling their stomachs with the profits from babies!! But I think parents are also crazy, you know, supply is only meeting the demand.


I grew up well without ever studying like that.

kscc**** :

I like early childhood education, but teaching a foreign language to children who don’t even understand words yet? What do they know at that age?


How about not using private education at all? If it is too expensive then you can’t buy it. Taru, a Finnish woman who showed up on one Korean television program, said that Finns trust public education, so there is no private education in Finland at all. Korean should put in the effort to train good teachers and make a solid system of public education. I wish it would lead people away from private education..


There was one time my home-schooling teacher visited my home to promote a home-school textbook. She then tried to test my child’s ability to think. After a few minutes talking with my child, she forced me to buy books costing ₩1.2 million worth (USD $1080) because my child lagged behind children in the region.. Hahaha. My baby, it’s fine if you lag behind the others, just please grow up healthy and polite.

mom and infant


Parents who think their children are so great, that is all bullshit.. hey come on.. Just raise them like normal people. Those who are not supposed to be great will never become great.. Please. Silly parents..


Korean mother’s method of education: pointing out a janitor and saying “If you don’t study, then you will become a person like him”. On the other hand, the Vietnamese method: pointing out a janitor and saying “Thanks to him, we can sleep well at night.”
Korean mother’s method of education: looking at children running around the cafeteria and saying “Who are you, don’t meddle in my precious child’s business.” Compared to the Japanese method, “Hey kid, don’t cause inconvenience to others.”
Korean mother’s method of education: They don’t have an interest in what their children do, just in how to squeeze as many activities as possible into their child’s schedule. Then there is the Jewish mother’s method: They want to know what their children are doing and learning.


Pathetic.. but it can’t be fixed. This is the damned reality of Korea.


they’re all crazy.. a vicious cycle..


There is no need to teach children like that. They will grow up without any character and go on to beat up people, even their parents. .


It used to be that the only way to get people to sit up and pay attention was for someone to commit suicide, now killing yourself doesn’t even bring any notice in our country.


Before teaching them English, please teach them manners.


That’s why children have trouble with their personality. Education for the sake of showing off or being better and faster than your peers is a bad example of love for children. I could accept the idea of early education but I don’t think parents should delegate all educational authority to a hagwon. At least, at home, they should teach their children etiquette lessons. When I was young, after I got home from school, I was busy hiding the fact that I was punished by my teacher that day. When my parents eventually found out, I was scolded all over again, they said “It was all your fault. Why did you have to behave so badly that your teacher hurt his hand hitting you? How much did you do wrong?” Anyway, parents’ ways of loving their children these days is not good, at this rate it is inevitable for them to grow up impolite. For god’s sake(에휴), I miss the past.


I have two sons, one six-year-old and one three-year-old. As far as private education, regardless of someone’s good intentions, it is easy to be carried away by the atmosphere around us, I know that’s the way it is for me. Of course, there are educational gaps among different regions, but I think Seoul is the best. As our generation is different, I tried to understand it, but it’s hard. I think many parents have only one or two children so that they can easily devote their attention to them and make a tremendous investment in their education. I don’t know how to decide a child’s future so that they will always be bright and happy. Children these days have such a tough life. They spend time studying at school from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.. However, I suggest that parents’ perception of education should change. In our world of smart technology, English, Math, Science, Korean, and other subjects can help children develop, but these subjects should not become their whole life. I want to see their innocent smile, bright eyes, and eager faces.

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