This is a response to Chris Seto's blog money - the wedge that divides us all. I started to write it in his comments section but it got too long and involved so I moved it here. I suggest you read it first, but I won't make you.
The quality of the public education system here (in Korea) is slowly deteriorating, and this is mainly due to increased quality and attention in the 'cram' schools. As attention is focussed on the more elite schools, it is removed from the public system, causing problems there to multiply. Public schools are jammed with 25-40 children in the classroom with one teacher. It is impossible for the teacher of a class this large to cover the same material as a class with 13 students or fewer (which is the class size maximum allowed at my school). Many classes may even have as few as 4 or 5 students. Thus, these classes can cover a volume of material not possible in the public domain. It makes me sad that wealthy parents will put their money into a 'cram' school instead of the public schools. With the amount they are paying me they could pay two more public school teachers and divide the class in half.
That's the fairy tale.
Everything here is about status, education and appearance. The first questions a Korean will ask me will be my place of birth (obviously), age, education, and marital status, and then they will comment on my clothes and looks. The reality is that here, having a child in cram school covers the issue of status and education. If the public school system deteriorates then the gap will be larger and thus the status of the wealthy higher. This is the culture, and has been for thousands of years.
Unfortunately, I have come to realise that I am an accessory to it. I teach wealthy children at a prestegious academy and make more money/year from this job than many Koreans will see... ever.
I am in a moral quandry.
I can't just tutor public school children for cheap or free because it's illegal here. You have to be careful who you tutor because if they wish to increase their status and tell the wrong person, you're out with a kick in the ass and a black mark on your travelling record. I am contracted to work here, and I will be here for a while. Does anyone have any suggestions on what I can do?