April 06, 2015 08:14
Young North Korean defectors often have a tough time keeping up with the intense competition in schools in the South and many parents turn to alternative boarding schools.
They can also be a good choice for youngsters who came to the South on their own.
According to the Education Ministry, about 283 students attended alternative schools last year.
Chung Kyung-mi (21), who attends a prestigious private university in Seoul, said, "I was able to adjust slowly to life in the South because I got hands-on education at an alternative school. Ordinary public schools require kids to memorize textbooks, but in alternative schools you can learn things step by step and in more practical lessons."
But critics say alternative schools can slow down the adjustment process or deliver lower academic standards. One defector who gave his surname as Chun said, "Kids from elementary to high school live and study together, so it's difficult to stream classes according to ability, and the teachers weren't very good either, so academically the education was poor."
Park Ho-joon (20), who is also at a prestigious private university in Seoul, agrees. "The aim of most alternative schools is to give students the equivalent of a high school diploma, so they find it difficult to keep up at university. I've seen some students drop out of college because they don't even know how to write a term paper."
Some alternative schools are not accredited by the ministry. Another defector said, "Some unaccredited alternative schools are taught by defectors who used to be teachers in the North, and that can just lead to more problems adjusting to life in the South."
One expert said, "Some defectors who couldn't find a job set up alternative schools and are getting support from the government, but often they're just a way of making money."
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