As some of you know I am in South Korea. There have been two drastic elements that have surprised me in the way the people here live. But before I go any further I want to make it clear this is by no means a perfect country and, just like dear Blighty, is very self-critical and also attempts to resolve a conflict between ultimate values (its traditions and the unclear pathway towards a more liberal and modern state).
I have witnessed familes from all echelons of the social strata, from factory workers to public officials, spending vast sums of thier own money on the extra-curricular education of their children. The majority spend at least a third of their income on this extra education. It is a huge investment in their little ones, whose extra lessons occur in the form of Tai Kwan Do, English and in some cases Chinese and music, usually piano or violin (from as young as 4 years old). I have been amazed at the ability these young people have and have to say in terms of global skills and competition they will have many doors opened to them as a result of what they have learnt.
Before they reach the age of 13, at least 60% of the children are bilingual or trilingual, can play a musical instrument and have learnt self discipline and respect for others via Tai Kwan Do and the Korean traditions of family.
I believe there are lessons to be learnt from the Koreans.
More specifically, I watched a BBC report on school dinners for children which shows how British school headteachers have been put in a precarious position. I have to admit to being a tad ignorant in this area and assumed that our taxes were addressing this issue. According to the report, food costs ten pounds a week per head in schools. So my questions are:
1. Shouldn’t we be paying the necessary taxes to ensure all children (I have no children myself) are catered for by schools in a responsible manner?
2. Nobody wants to pay more tax: should we ask MPs to redirect funds from somewhere else to cover the cost?
3. Do you pay for extra educational provision for your children and do you think that we should do this as a country?
4. Do you think we should have separate private/public evening and weekend academies to add to our education system?
As I am not a parent I hope you will forgive my wandering into this area but I would value your views on this issue.