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Parents who flout coaching ban face jail

South Korea. Year-long prison sentences are now possible for South Korean parents who flout the law and send their children to private tutors.

And the government has introvduced a ban on private English language lessons for pupils preparing for exams which determine entry to the country's high schools and universitites.

The new ban on English language is the result of the ministry of education's recent decision to make English language a compulsory part of the curriculum. Similar restrictions already exist for other subjects on the school curriculum except music and art.

Some families are willing to spend more than Pounds 5,000 a year on tuition for their children the ministry of education's private tuition ban is intended to preserve fairness.

"Private tuition provides too many additional benefits for the children of the richer families," said high school teacher Han-kyo Lee. "Richer families can afford to spend huge amounts on additional tuition in order to improve their children's chances of winning places at top schools and universities."

Some teachers believe that young South Koreans should be encouraged to spend more time exercising and socialising. Last year Seoul schools introduced a weekly "homework-free day"to reduce pupils' study time.

The ban on private English language tuition will also stem the influx of foreign English language teachers. The number of "backpacker tutors" has soared as parents have shown their willingness to pay generous fees.

The number of foreign teachers who have registered to teach English legally has also increased. At the beginning of the year around 7,000 foreign nationals had registered as teachers of English, more than double the number which had registered in 1994.

"The South Korean government wants to reduce the huge amounts of money spent on private tuition," says teacher Yong-doo Kim.

The ban has been criticised for infringing parents' freedom to pay for additional learning opportunities for their children. Parents say that the extra lessons have helped to raise academic standards and are largely responsible for the impressive performances of South Korean pupils in international tests.

To correct the imbalance caused by private tuition, the ministry of education has backed a series of televised tutoring programmes which all pupils can watch. The programmes, featuring some of the country's best teachers, will include advice on answering the questions asked in national exams.

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