Education Support for Youths from Low-Income Families
Seodaemun-gu Office

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Youths from low-income households deserve special care. Busy working to make ends meet, their parents do not have enough time to take care of them after school. They cannot afford to hire someone to care for their children, either. After school, the children are left alone at home. Most of their friends are busy studying at home or going to private institutions for extra lessons. They have no one to motivate them to do their homework, let alone help with their studies. They do not even have anybody to talk to. Famous for their education fervor around the world, Koreans send their children to private institutions after school or even invite private tutors to their home in the evening. Poor families cannot afford to do that. Their children lag behind at school. The wealth of parents determines the scholastic ability of their children; this affects their choice of occupations, which makes a difference in their economic well-being. It is a vicious cycle. Youths in poor families inherit poverty from their parents, and they can hardly break the cycle. This is a very dangerous situation for the nation. Those children tend to have no hope for the future. They have grievances about everything. They are alienated from a great majority of the youth in thier peer group. Their parents are not at home most of the time. They are rarely of help to their children except for their basic necessities. The children either end up drifting into delinquency or become victims of delinquency. For instance, they commit school bullying or suffer from it at school. Therefore, addressing the issue of school violence in Korea is extremely important in a number of aspects.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
Many youths from low-income families perform poorly at school and tend to drift into delinquency including bullying other students and other forms of school violence. Delinquency and school performance are two problems that are thus inextricably tied together. One solution could thus solve both problems and the Seodaemun-gu office tried to do that. It wanted to kill two birds with one stone. It is usually hard for a local government to deal with the issue because of financial constraints. Seodaemun-gu still wanted to find a solution to the problem. Right after his inauguration as Mayor of Seodaemun-gu, Mun Seok-jin ordered the formation of a task force team to look into the issue. The team was composed of public officials and experts in the area of education. The team came up with the following solutions: <1. Mentoring Program to Improve Youths’ Scholastic Performance through Collaboration with Universities in the District> One of the advantages of Seodaemun-gu is that there are a total of nine universities located in the district - including several top-tier universities in the country such as Yonsei University and Ewha Womans University. The Gu office paid attention to this fact and came up with a mentoring program wherein college students tutor children from low-income families in the district. The district head had several meetings with the presidents of the universities in the district to convince them of the necessity and values of the initiative. They eventually agreed to cooperate with the district office. The district office selected youths to participate in the mentoring program while the universities signed up conscious students wanting to tutor disadvantaged children. A mentor would pair with a child from a low-income household and help in the child’s studies and overall character building. In addition, the mentor would regularly participate in diverse cultural activities with the child. <2. Efforts to Prevent School Violence at Secondary Schools> In addition to the tutoring program, to help curb school violence, the district office formed a special council in cooperation with the Office of Education, police agency and civil society in the district. The council gathered diverse opinions on how to deal with the issue most effectively. According to the recommendations of the council, the district office made various institutional arrangements. One of them was the enactment of an ordinance designed to prevent and fight school violence. It also worked out diverse educational programs advocating zero tolerance of school violence. It had various middle and high schools in the district implement the programs, garnering a very positive response and promising results.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
Educational support for youths from low-income families in Seodaemun-gu was conceived from the idea that the district has a number of first-rate universities. It was the country’s first initiative wherein a local government joined forces with universities in the community to mentor youths from disadvantaged families - a partnership between the public and private sectors to deal with the root cause of social problems. This type of initiative is highly sustainable. It makes mentors proud of themselves. Another unique feature of the initiative is that it also offers “cultural mentoring” to young kids who hardly ever have a chance to experience cultural activities. < Collaboration with Various Experts> Fighting school violence is nothing new. Police departments often work with schools to find solutions to the problem. Seodaemun-gu, however, decided to mobilize not only the local police department, but experts in a great variety of fields to eradicate school bullying in the district. Apart from collaboration with the Office of Education, local police department, and civil society, the district office mobilized experts such as counselors, detectives, art instructors, humanities teachers, psychologists, and psychiatrists to fight violence and care for both bullies and victims.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The mentoring program primarily sought to improve the scholastic ability of youths from low-income households. The district launched the program “Dream Start!” in 2009. The program involves one-on-one mentoring between college students and disadvantaged children and adolescents in primary, middle, and high schools. Specifically, the program offered two 2-hour sessions per week and one cultural activity session per month. So far, 100 youths on the average have received the mentoring benefits a year. Besides, the district office signed a memorandum of understanding with “Teach for Korea,” an organization dedicated to educational volunteer services, in 2012. In the conference hall of the district office, the organization offers free tutoring services to about 50 young students in the district. Furthermore, the district office launched the “Han-Jung-In Project” named after three high schools in the district - Hanseong, Jungang, and Inchang. The program offers free high-quality after-school education to outstanding students from low-income families. The district office pays for all the expenses. The three schools have joined hands and dispatched their best instructors in each major subject to the program. The school bullying prevention program being implemented in the district is aimed at not just preventing school bullying but also discouraging young kids from getting involved in any type of juvenile delinquencies by providing troubled youths with all the necessary psychological support. The district office established a close cooperative network with the Office of Education, the local police department, and civic organizations in the district and organized the “Local Council against School Violence.” The district office also had an ordinance enacted at the district council regarding the prevention of school violence and countermeasures for such. The ordinance requires all schools to set up their own preventive measures against school violence. For students having a hard time adjusting to school life, the district office launched the “Peaceful School Project,” which offers both arts & humanities education and professional counseling. For victims of school bullying, the district embarked on the “Building a Happy School Project,” which offers professional treatment and counseling by psychiatrists and clinical psychologists. -March 2009: Launched “Dream Start!” a mentoring program in which college students tutor adolescents from low-income households -March 2012: Established the “Local Council against School Violence” with the relevant institutions -October 2012: Expanded the mentoring program through collaboration with “Teach for Korea.” -November 2012: Enacted an ordinance on the prevention of and countermeasures for school violence -January 2013: Launched the “Building a Happy School Project” and the “Peaceful School Project” designed to prevent school bullying -March 2013: Agreement between the district office and the Kochon Foundation, a public welfare foundation, signed for mentoring services to middle school students from low-income families

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Youths from low-income households are the primary beneficiaries of the initiative. The youths get free after-school education. Equally important is the fact that they spend time with those who can be their role models. They also get involved in cultural activities. They can get through a vulnerable stage in their life safely. Proud of their improving scholastic performance the youths steer clear of bullying and violence. On the other hand, mentors feel proud because they have contributed to the young and the local community. The service experience makes them pay attention to social services. It is a very promising step toward overall social development in the country. Through the initiative, the Seodaemun-gu office and participating universities in the district have made significant contributions to the stability and development of the district, which is turning into a more comfortable place to live in.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The most important element in the initiative was human resources. For the mentoring project to succeed, it was crucial to secure college students who were both bright and good-natured. Since there are top-quality universities in the district, securing highly qualified mentors was not that difficult. After selecting qualified university students through due screening procedures, the universities offered training in tutoring and mentoring techniques to have them fully ready to function as teachers and mentors. For education on school violence at schools, the district office hired top-tier instructors based on the recommendations of the relevant educational institutions and civil society. Mentoring is mostly offered in the form of talent donation. To enhance the effects, however, the district office has allocated an average annual budget of 360 million won for the youths’ stationery and cultural activities. Mentors each receive a scholarship of around 5 million won a year. (1USD = 1,050won) The money is provided by the universities. For educational programs to prevent school violence, the district office spends about 1.87 billion won each year on instructors’ salaries and operating costs.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The biggest output of the mentoring program was the sharply improved scholastic ability of the youths who participated in the program. According to the results of a survey, 70% of the mentors made improvements in either mathematics or English as the two major subjects of mentoring. The analysis of the College Scholastic Ability Test administered by the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation shows that Seodaemun-gu rose to the 17th spot in 2012 and to 11th place in 2013 nationally in mathematics from outside the top 30 in 2011. Young students were able to develop their personality through their regular participation in cultural activities, too. The district has implemented the “Peaceful School Project,” which offers both arts & humanities education and counseling services to 850 students in 6 schools. According to a survey, the participants’ response has been very positive. Through the “Building a Happy School”, the district has offered 235 counseling sessions to 44 students and training on the prevention of school violence to a total of 117 teachers. As a consequence, the relevant students’ K-YSR (Korean Youth Self-Report) indicators dropped from 15.02 to 12.55; this means that their psychological distress, depression, nervousness, and aggressiveness as well as their various physical symptoms such as atrophy have improved a lot. Seodaemun-gu could make remarkable achievements with little additional spending by promoting the initiative through collaboration with the private sector. Participating universities could boost their reputation through their contributions to the local community. They could also secure higher annual university rankings from the Ministry of Education due to their participation in the initiative. Participating middle and high schools could also prevent school violence, one of the biggest social issues in Korea. The Han-Jung-In Project, an alliance of three high schools in the district to improve the scholastic performance of youths from low-income families, has continued to yield promising results.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The mentoring program in the district has adopted the supervisor system. Every ten mentors have a supervisor a graduate student who receives monthly progress reports from the mentors, gives advice, and solves any and all problems immediately. The supervisors also keep in touch with the relevant officials of the district office, make evaluations of the mentors under their supervision, and take the necessary measures together. One-on-one mentoring may sometimes be unproductive. Supervisors make sure that this doesn’t occur and tangible results for all the parties concerned are brought about. In the program designed to prevent school violence, K-YSR and surveys are conducted to measure outcomes for the among participants in the program. In collaboration with the relevant schools, the district office ensures that the effects of education on school bullying will continue to bear fruit with a continuous reduction in frequency and intensity of school bullying.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The most visible obstacle to the initiative was finding partners to promote the initiative together. For mentoring services, universities were reluctant to participate because they had to find volunteer students and offer them scholarships. As a result of the compelling persuasion efforts of the head of the district office, however, Yonsei University, one of the most prestigious universities in Korea, agreed to join the initiative was the first university to do so. For the program designed to prevent school violence, middle and high schools were hesitant to participate in the initiative. They thought participating in the initiative would be tantamount to admitting that school bullying was a huge problem at their schools. The district office persuaded them that opening up would be much better in the fight against school violence. Convinced, schools ended up participating in the initiative one by one.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
By supporting the education of youths from low-income households, these youths improved their scholastic performance, built their stronger personalities, broke the vicious cycle of the inheritance of poverty from generation to generation, which opened doors to the middle class, allowing them to contribute to social development. If low-income households cannot hope to move up the ladder, the entire society will end up losing vitality. The district office has tried to open up possibilities for a brighter future for disadvantaged young people in the district so that each individual in the district is motivated to do his/her very best and the whole society can maintain vitality. Educational welfare projects, at the level of local governments in Korea have usually been promoted by local governments alone. The projects have failed to generate significant results due to budgetary constraints, among others. Seodaemun-gu has promoted its initiative in collaboration with universities and middle and high schools in the districts, setting a good example of collaboration between public and private sectors for an invaluable cause. Local governments in Korea have traditionally maintained that having universities under their jurisdiction brings them no benefits at all because the schools do not pay taxes to local governments in the first place. Still, the initiative has shown that collaboration with universities in local communities can bring about significant benefits to local residents, and that universities can be key resources for the development of local communities. Through the success of the initiative, Seodaemun-gu is presenting a new driving force for the development of local communities.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Seodaemun-gu has established a strong collaborative relationship and network with the private sector in the district. Through successful educational support for those from disadvantaged families, the district has shown that a public-private partnership can be beneficial to both parties. It is planning to expand the mentoring program further by joining forces with private scholarship foundations and nonprofit organizations. Based on the physical outcome of the initiative, Seodaemun-gu is in a position to promote collaborative programs with other diverse private institutions. Such initiative is something that other countries as well as other local governments in Korea can easily try to emulate.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
The advantage of collaboration between the public and private sectors is very well known to administrators at various levels. The issue is who executes the partnership and makes the best use of it. Sometimes, public and private sectors do not look in the same direction. Other times, the public sector appears to be taking a high-handed approach. Nonetheless, the fact remains that collaboration between the two can bring about significant synergy effects and make considerable contributions to the development of local communities. The support for youths from low-income families in Seodaemun-gu is a good example of the public and private sectors joining forces for the common good. The district office has made a social contribution through its partnership with human resources in universities, indicating that the public sector can count on the private sector to realize its mandate of maximizing welfare benefits for all residents. Another lesson learned by Seodaemun-gu is that the increasingly serious school violence can be eradicated as long as all stakeholders join forces. The district office expects those who have received educational welfare benefits from the district to pay back society in the form of talent donation sometime down the road. Then, instead of poverty, they will bequeath a tradition of social contributions to the next generation.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Seodaemun-gu Office
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Yunki Jeong
Title:   manager  
Telephone/ Fax:   82-2-330-1585 /82-2-330-1442
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   Yeonheero 248
Postal Code:   120-703
City:   Seodaemun-gu
State/Province:   Seoul

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