Release of medium-to-long term outlook on respective agenda based
on the analysis of pending macroeconomic issues


KDI Policy Forum

Impact of the Free Learning Semester (FLS) on Private-Tutoring Investment

cover image
  • Author PARK. Yoonsoo
  • Date 2018/03/27
  • Series No. KDI Policy Forum No. 269 (2018-02), eng.
  • Language English
SUMMARY □ Analysis on the impact of the Free Learning Semester (FLS) on the private-tutoring investment for middle school students revealed a significant increase among high-income households.

- This study used data on 178,213 middle school students drawn from Statistics Korea’s 2009-2016 Private Tutoring Expenditure Survey.

- No meaningful impact was observed overall but high-income households (over 6 million won monthly) exhibited yearly increases of 15.2%p and 1.79 million won in the participation in and expenditure on private tutoring.

□ Such increases are due to high-income households’ easy access to private tutoring and high demand in terms of tutoring for admissions and advance learning.

- The FLS reduces the hours spent on academic courses. Therefore, it is easier for students from higher-income households to substitute the loss with private tutoring.

- Also, the FLS alleviates students’ burden of managing their grade point average (GPA), which could increase the demand for private tutoring for admissions and/or advance learning. This is particularly true among higher-income households.

□ The above results indicate that the FLS―designed to help students explore future career paths and facilitate the development of non-cognitive skills―could widen the education gap between income groups through private tutoring.

- Better quality programs are needed to supplement the cutback in academic courses in order to ease parental concerns. At the same time, more after-school programs should be introduced to assure students who have little access to private tutoring with ample educational opportunities.

- Relevant polices must be designed bearing in mind that if they are not aligned with parents' needs, the biggest casualties will be low-income students who are unable to afford private tutoring.
KDI VOD Report
For one semester in middle school, the free learning semester, or FLS,
eliminates tests and exams, cuts back on academic subjects,
and introduces diverse interactive programs.

The goal is to liberate students from the burden of exams and grades
and allow them to explore their options and future career paths
as well as further develop their creativity and social skills.

The response has been highly positive thus far.

However, having no exams for a whole semester,
many have come to regard the FLS
as a chance to focus on their advance learning,
raising concerns that it is encouraging the demand for private tutoring.

So, is this true?

Using Statistics Korea’s Private Tutoring Expenditure Survey,
KDI analyzed the impact of the FLS on private tutoring.

Overall, although no significant changes were observed,
discrepancies were found between different income levels.

Indeed, there was an explicit increase in
the participation in and expenditure on
private tutoring among high-income households
while no meaningful changes were found for
middle to low income households, barring a slight decline.

Then, has the private tutoring of students
from high-income households really increased?

An examination was first conducted to examine
whether the rise in private tutoring
during the implementation of the FLS was a mere coincidence,
and whether the increase was driven by other factors.

To rule out the connection between
the timing of the FLS and increase in private tutoring,
the effects of the FLS on the previous year’s trends in private tutoring
were examined which revealed no relevant findings.

This implied that the demand for private tutoring increased
after the implementation of the FLS
and not the other way round.

Next, the same analysis was applied to high school students.

This is because middle and high school students are
similar in many aspects.
As such, if there were any other driving factors aside from the FLS,
similar results would be obtained for high school students
who are irrelevant to the FLS.

No meaningful results were found, however, implying that
the increasing trend in private tutoring was
most likely not driven by other factors.

Finally, a comparison was made between
different income levels in terms of participation.

It was found that higher-income households sought private tutoring
more for admissions and advance learning purposes
while lower-income households found it was necessary for
supplementary reasons.

having been freed from GPAs during the FLS,
many of those who could afford it
were increasing their expenditure on private tutoring,
especially for advance learning.


If the Free Learning Semester does indeed prompt a rise in private-tutoring investment,
mainly among the high-income group,
it could inadvertently exacerbate the education gap
between income groups even further.

As such, efforts must be made to qualitatively enhance academic courses
before expanding the FLS to cover the whole year.
This would greatly contribute to easing parental concerns.
After-school programs must also be strengthened to assure students
from low-income households with sufficient educational opportunities.

Although the FLS is a well-intended policy,
careful consideration must be given to the fact that
the resulting reduction in public education could widen the gap between the classes.
Go to Youtube
Related content It is directly correlated to the content.
More from this topicIt deals with the same topic of the content

No data about the same topic

KDI Research Category
Advanced search