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Parents struggle to register for kindergartens

Nov 27,2018
Mrs. Lee, the mother of a five-year-old girl, was astonished on Thursday when she logged on to an online kindergarten application site run by the Ministry of Education to secure a spot for her daughter at a nearby private kindergarten.

The kindergarten she had in mind was registered on the site, but there was no application link available. The only explanation she got from the site, go-firstschool.go.kr, was a notice asking parents to call kindergartens without application links and ask them about the registration process. The notice explained that kindergartens without application links were no longer accepting more children.

The site’s objective was intended to give parents an opportunity to secure a spot for their children at a kindergarten without having to physically visit the school.

“I don’t see the point of having an online application site if I’m going to have to register in person anyway,” said Lee. “As there’s a pop-up notice that acknowledges the trouble parents have, I believe that the [Education Ministry] is letting these private kindergartens get away with [not accepting online applications.]”

Lee is not the only parent that experienced difficulty using the website.

Many of the kindergartens registered on the site only list information about their educational curriculum but do not allow parents to apply.

An Education Ministry audit released this fall found rampant misuse of public funds at private kindergartens.

After the scandal, the Education Ministry pressed kindergartens nationwide to register on the website, warning them that they would receive lower government subsidies if they did not.

Many private kindergartens registered on the site, but neglected to post application links. Some speculate that this is because private kindergartens do not want to compete with public kindergartens, which are more affordable and generally offer more diverse curricula.

“It’s hard for me to find a spot for my kid, since there aren’t many kindergartens located in Gyeonggi registered on the site to begin with,” said Mrs. Yoon, the mother of a four-year-old child. “I think I’m going to have to call all the kindergartens in the area who are taking student applications and schedule appointments with each and every one of them, just as I did last year.”

The Education Ministry has acknowledged that some private kindergartens were misusing government funds.

“For these kindergartens, [the Education Ministry] decided to treat them as not being registered on the [go-firstschool site]. Financial restrictions [related to subsidies] will be put on them,” said Kwon Ji-young, manager of the Early Childhood Education Policy Division at the Education Ministry.

Many parents experienced further inconvenience on Wednesday, the first day of online kindergarten applications, when the site shut down due to the sudden increase in users.

This year, a total of 4,782 public and private kindergartens were registered on the go-firstschool website. Of the kindergartens registered on the site, 59.9 percent (2,448) are private. This is a huge increase from last year, when only 115 private kindergartens were registered on the site. This can largely be attributed to the government’s threat that it would cut subsidies to kindergartens that don’t register.

“I failed to secure a spot for my child,” said a parent of a three-year-old child, who tried logging on to the site but could not because of the site’s shutdown. “I don’t understand why [the Education Ministry] did not prepare for the sudden increase in users logging on to the site. This increase was inevitable, seeing that so many private kindergartens were registered this year.”

Parents have only three chances to apply to kindergartens online.

Parents who use all three chances but fail to secure a spot have to wait until a spot opens. It is common for parents who are trying to get their children into public kindergartens to fail all three times.

“Even though I know that I’m not going to secure a spot at a public kindergarten for my child, I still try, [because public kindergartens are much cheaper than private ones],” said one parent of a seven-year-old child. “I believe that the website either needs to include more public kindergartens or differentiate the application dates for parents who want to secure a spot in public kindergartens from those who are applying to private ones.”

BY JEON MIN-HEE [jeong.juwon@joongang.co.kr]