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KDI - Korea Development Institute

KDI - Korea Development Institute



Policy Study Improving Elementary Education to Build Social Capital: Focusing on Afterschool Program November 01, 2021


Series No. 2021-04

Policy Study KOR Improving Elementary Education to Build Social Capital: Focusing on Afterschool Program #Elementary and Secondary Education
DOI P-ISBN979-11-5932-671-4 E-ISBN979-11-5932-679-0

November 01, 2021

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The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak has prompted the spread of the notion that schools should strengthen students' physical and social-emotional skills development by providing reliable care, on top of improving their academic achievement. Against this backdrop, this study aims to analyze how afterschool programs, the education and childcare activities schools offer, are related to child development in elementary schools and offer policy recommendations for improving program effectiveness. Afterschool class refers to education and childcare activities at school after regular school hours, tailored to the needs of students and parents. This study focuses on the correlation between child development of elementary school students and afterschool programs and how to improve program effectiveness, considering the following: throughout the school years, it is at the elementary school level afterschool classes are most widely used, and these classes at younger years stimulate early child development, which serves as a foundation for later development.

To analyze the relationship between afterschool program participation and developmental outcomes among elementary school children, the author uses data from the first and second year of the 2018 Korean Children and Youth Panel Survey, which tracks fourth-graders in 2018 until their first year of high school in 2025 on a yearly basis. The status of child development was measured based on their satisfaction with school transcripts, factors of cognitive development stimulation, and the levels of social-emotional and physical development. Cognitive development stimulating factors are about academic enthusiasm consisting of dedication, vigor, efficacy, and immersion. Social-emotional development comprises emotional issues, life satisfaction, happiness, self-esteem, cooperative consciousness, grit, and peer relationship. Physical development consists of health status assessment and body mass index (BMI). As a yardstick to measure child development, the criteria mentioned above embody the educational goal of helping students lead a fulfilling life by pursuing learning focused on strengths and interests and communicating and cooperating with others in a healthy way. Since afterschool classes and private education intend to develop talents and aptitudes and supplement the regular curriculum, the empirical analysis compares participation in afterschool classes to private education relative to child developmental outcomes of elementary school students.

According to the analysis, child development has no consistent relationship with their participation in afterschool programs but a positive one with participation in private education. Elementary school students participating in afterschool activities for less than one hour show better health status assessments. Children who attend for two to three hours display improvement in academic vigor, grit, and BMI, and on the other hand, deterioration in aggressiveness, depression, and peer relationship. Physical symptoms worsen when participating two or more hours. As for private education, participating for one to two hours exhibits boosted grit, while one or more hours shows better academic efficacy and lesser aggressiveness. Also, two or more hours in private education display enhanced satisfaction with academic transcript, and three or more hours improved academic enthusiasm, commitment, vigor, immersion, attention, cooperative consciousness, peer relationship, and health status assessment. The different structures of afterschool programs children choose depending on the mix of afterschool and private education they are taking or the differences in educators' teaching methods and characteristics between the two may have caused these results.

Given the objectives of afterschool classes, such as holistic development of children, supplementing the compulsory school curriculum, and reducing private education expenses, it may be necessary to improve the quality of afterschool programs.

For afterschool classes to further develop children's cognitive skills, programs need to be linked with formal education and exchange information on the regular school curriculum and student guidance. Sharing student information such as interests, experiences, developmental characteristics, and learning history may enable afterschool classes to construct programs to reinforce academic enthusiasm in students. To put it differently, in regular classes, students efficiently acquire the accumulated academic knowledge and systems. In afterschool classes, they experience real-world applications of regular classroom learning, ultimately inspiring intrinsic motivation to learn, the foundation of self-directed and lifelong learning capacities. Also, during and after the regular school hours, educators need to work together to help the latter, afterschool instructors, better understand the mandatory curriculum.

Furthermore, for deepening children's social-emotional skills, afterschool instructors must provide adequate care coupled with positive interactions. Elementary school students need a positive and supportive role model and a leader who recognizes, encourages, and reinforces their prosocial behaviors. Thus, educators should help students learn how to collaborate, compromise, and reach agreements with others in specific situations. A warm and caring learning environment is a prerequisite for success in drawing out students' potential. While physical activities can simultaneously promote both physical and social-emotional development, afterschool programs can create educational settings conducive to affectionate and nurturing learning for children.

One way to enhance the educational effectiveness of afterschool classes is to provide compulsory training courses for prospective instructors and, from those who completed them, select instructors suitable for helping the well-rounded development of children. This training should include required courses on theoretical and practical aspects of child development by age, teaching methods, communication and relation buildup between educators, student guidance, etc. Through multi-faceted personality interviews on topics like how to respond to a given classroom situation, the selection process should comprehensively assess applicants as dedicated educators. To sum up, it is important to raise the bar for training and selecting instructors but leave operation at the discretion of each school in order to provide student-oriented and customized education.

In addition, it is necessary to broaden the scope of program providers from schools to local communities, and local governments should holistically manage the program to enhance its system and effectiveness. Now, students are offered the same programs even after advancing to the next grade, and a change of instructor means discontinuing the previous program. Limited material and human resources are also obstacles to providing students with various enriching experiences in culture, art, and career. School teachers complain of time constraints to focus on the regular curriculum because it takes too much time to process administrative matters for afterschool classes, including bookkeeping, parental opinion gathering, and instructor selection. For quality afterschool programs, local governments, schools, and offices of education all have parts to play. Local governments should establish an integrated framework in which they play a managing role in planning, promoting, and supervising afterschool classes at schools as well as afterschool activities at libraries, community centers, universities, and welfare centers in the vicinity. Schools should actively engage and cooperate within the framework by informing afterschool program registration details and providing a venue. It is desirable that local governments train, manage, deploy, evaluate, and remunerate instructors, run the programs, and link community resources and education offices to play a leading role in selecting instructors and developing educational items and content compositions.

Especially, schools should operate basic-level afterschool programs and develop them for advanced-level classes before sharing with local communities while managing students' developmental characteristics and learning history under a unified system. In this way, afterschool classes can provide systematic and in-depth learning, differentiating itself from private education. For instance, a professional visits a class and conducts career education, and then students go on a workplace tour in the area to observe the work or have hands-on experience. Also, it is necessary to encourage community members with a certain level of professional expertise to be trained at lifelong education centers and work as afterschool instructors using flexible working hours. Such practices of raising all children as our own are helpful to increasing social capital.

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of the Korean education and care system. Remaking afterschool programs in line with the findings of this study would improve the academic performance of elementary school students and broaden their social-emotional support base, contributing to mitigating the vulnerabilities.
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