Private cram schools or “hagwon” are moving to raise tuition charges, citing the rising cost of bus operation and other expenses on soaring oil prices.
Hagwon owners say bus operation costs increased more than 20 percent because of surging oil prices over the last three months. They are also complaining that costs to make textbooks are rising.
Against this backdrop, they are demanding the education authorities raise the ceiling on tuition increases. A regional education office in Gangnam, southern Seoul has already allowed about 250 hagwon in the area to raise their ceiling on tuition increases by nearly 5 percent.
Parents have long been suffering from snowballing private education costs. About 89 percent of elementary school students and 75 percent of middle schoolers are attending hagwons as of last year, paying an average 260,000 won ($ 260) and 314,000 won per month, respectively. The average costs for private cram schools for urban households rose 15.7 percent from a year earlier to 164,657 won in the first quarter of 2008, according to the National Statistical Office.
Each regional education office oversees hagwon tuition fees. However, the ceiling on tuition hikes is ineffective as most hagwon are charging students more indirectly by raising textbook prices or adjusting teaching hours.