Cram schools (also known as crammers) are specialized schools that train their students to meet particular goals, most commonly to pass the entrance examinations of high schools or universities. The English name is derived from the slang term "cramming," meaning to study hard or to study a large amount of material in a short period of time. Cram schools are most popular in Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, and India.
Cram schools offer year-round after-school and weekend programs for students of all ages, including even college students in India; these schools cover most subjects at various levels depending on the students' needs.
While public education institutions can be influenced by bureaucracy, cram schools often operate according to different principles. For example, teachers in public education institutions can be restricted to the prescribed curriculum of the school district. At cram schools, however, teachers have relatively more freedom to share their values and adopt new innovative teaching methods. Furthermore, in cram schools students assess the school and its instructors and can choose switch to another cram school at any time. As a result, competition and other free market principles can improve the quality of instruction at a cram school. Some critics, however, point out that cram schools have intensified competition to the point where it causes undue stress for students. Furthermore, the popularity of cram schools in Asian countries can also be seen as an indicator of the deficiency of those public school systems.
Cram schools vary in type and style according to social, cultural, and educational contexts of each country. They, however, generally focus on two areas: remedial education and preparation for competitive examinations.
Cram schools are most popular in Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, and India. In those countries, families highly value the education of their children and parents often give the highest priority to educational expenses within the family budget. It is not uncommon that parents take extra jobs to fund their children's education.
Before a modern education system was established, most people learned reading, writing, calculating, and other subjects at such private schools, run by scholars who held classes in their own homes. Cram schools can be considered as an extension of those private schools which existed throughout their history.
Cram schools is Japan are called "Gakushū juku" (Japanese: 学習塾) or "juku" in short. Juku is so popular in Japan that it is difficult to find a town without a juku. Even in small cities and towns, one can easily find several juku. Juku are generally divided into two types: academic and non-academic.
This is a primary type of juku, where students range from pre-schoolers to high school. Students who finished high school and failed the college entrance exam can prepare to re-take the exam at juku, waiting one full year for the next chance to apply since college entrance exams are held once a year.
Academic juku are also generally divided into two types: those designed for advanced students and those that offer remedial education. In a juku for advance students, they teach far advanced materials. For example, fourth graders will study at the seventh grade level. By doing so, students can excel at regular schools and better prepare for difficult questions given at entrance examinations at competitive schools. At many juku of this type, they publish their original texts and develop original curriculum. Students also have to pass an entrance examination to enter the most competitive juku. Another type of juku is designed for remedial education, where instructors pay personal attention to each student.
Non-academic juku offer specific education such as music, art, calligraphy, abacus, and a variety of sports. Pre-school and elementary school children tend to attend one of these schools. It is not uncommon that a student attend more than one juku. For example, a student may attend a juku for swimming, another one for music, and another for academic purposes. After students reach sixth or seventh grade, they tend to attend only academic juku.
Juku attendance rose from the 1970s through the mid-1980s; participation rates increases at every grade level throughout the compulsory education years. This phenomenon is a source of great concern to the ministry, which issued directives to the regular schools hoping to reduce the need for afterschool lessons, but these directives have had little practical effect. Some juku even have branches in the United States and other countries to help children living abroad catch up with students in Japan.
A hagwon is a for-profit private cram school prevalent in South Korea. For families that can afford it, hagwon education usually starts at or before elementary level. It is common for Korean school children to attend one or more hagwon after their school. "Hagwon" is also sometimes used to describe similar institutions operated by Korean Americans in the United States.
It is not uncommon for students to be enrolled in several hagwon of different subject areas at once (in addition to their normal school attendance). Hagwons may specialize in subjects like math, foreign language, science, art, or English. Hagwons offering integrated instruction in several subject areas are also common. These are known as soksem hagwon at the elementary level, and ipsi hagwon at the secondary-school level. College and adult students attend gosi hagwon, which are typically focused on preparation for specific civil service examinations.
Like in many Korean public schools, discipline is sometimes administered with extra amounts of work assigned, as well as corporal punishment, if students misbehave, fail a test or do not complete their homework.
Cram schools are popular in China due to the importance of standardized exams, such as:
Cram schools in Taiwan are called buxiban and are not necessarily cram schools in the traditional sense. Almost any kind of extracurricular academic lesson could be termed buxiban, such as music, art, mathematics, and science, even if students do not attend these classes specifically in order to pass an examination. It is a traditional belief that parents should send their children to all kinds of cram schools in order to compete against other talented children. Therefore, most children in Taiwan have a schedule packed with all sorts of cram school lessons. English education, often with a "Native Speaker Teacher," are studied at private language schools. Furthermore, since this study is ongoing, they are not "cramming" in the traditional sense of the word.
Cram schools in Hong Kong are called tutorial schools. These cram schools put focus on the two major public examinations in Hong Kong, namely HKCEE and HKALE, and teach students on techniques on answering questions in the examinations. They also provide students tips on which topics may appear on the coming examination (called "question tipping"), and provide students some sample questions that are similar to those that appear in the examinations. Some cram school teachers in Hong Kong have become idolized and attract many students to take their lessons. These teachers are called "King of tutors (補習天王)."
Finishing School is a supplementary training school popular in India that attempts to make-up for deficiencies of low-tier colleges by providing specialized vocational training in technical fields such as computer programming and information technology.
The recent boom in the Indian economy has further enhanced the need for such finishing schools. The popular ones in the IT domain are the Mysore based RiiiT (www.riiit.com) and Bangalore based Purple Leap (www.PurpleLeap.com). These IT finishing schools cover technical skills as well as communication and problem solving skills. The biggest advantage of these finishing schools is that these schools cut down the "deployable time" for a company.
"Grind schools," as they are known in the Republic of Ireland, prepare students for the Leaving Certificate examination. Competition for university places (the "points race") has intensified with recent years: students wishing to study medicine, law or veterinary science in particular must achieve five or six "A" grades to be accepted. Some grind schools, such as The Institute of Education, teach full-time. Many others offer weekend or night-time classes for students who request extra attention understanding individual subjects.
The "dershane" system is the Turkish counterpart of cram schools. Students, typically in week-ends (in many instances, also after the school hours, especially in the last year), are drilled on various aspects of ÖSS, the unified "Student Selection Exam."
A category of high school called "Fen Lisesi" (Sciences High School) is also widely considered as cram schools in Turkey. In the beginning, these schools had been found to promote scientific education particularly in the primary sciences like physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics. However the unified university entrance test exam system (OSS) transformed these schools into intense test tutoring centers where students are trained for four years on taking the OSS test. Widely criticized in Turkey for inability to provide a well-rounded universal education or the primary sciences to students, the "Fen Lisesi" system have produced consistently the best OSS test scorers, especially in sciences and mathematics weighted point groups.
Crammers in England and Wales are almost entirely concerned with enabling pupils to re-take their A-level and GCSE exams, to improve their grades and in many cases, to get into university. Some offer boarding facilities. All are expensive, compared even to a public school such as Eton which also provide many extra-curricular activities. The English crammer, on the other hand, achieves results through focus on academic work where few, if any, organize any athletic activities.
The phrase "cram school" is considered pejorative in the United States and are generally called "tutoring services" or "test preparation centers." Some well-known businesses of this type are Barron's, Kaplan, Princeton Review, Peterson's, and Sylvan Learning. Generally, such supplementary instruction is only used in the United States as a way to assist students who have learning disabilities or are struggling academically in a particular subject. They are also used by upperclassmen in high schools to prepare for the SAT, ACT, and/or Advanced Placement exams. College graduates will attend such classes to prepare for entrance exams necessary for graduate level education (i.e., LSAT, MCAT, GRE).
Review courses for the CPA examination (e.g., Becker Conviser, part of DeVry University) and the bar examination (e.g., BarBri) are also taken by undergraduate and graduate students in accountancy and law.
All links retrieved December 9, 2017.
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