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### Yoon Vows to Enhance After-School Care Program in the Coming Year

President Yoon Suk Yeol, positioned at the center back, is captured in a photograph with students following his observation of a dance class, which is part of the pilot Neulbom School after-school care program at Shinwoo Elementary School in Hanam, Gyeonggi on Monday. Subsequently, he led the ninth public livelihood debate on education reform at the same school. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

During a town hall meeting on education reform at a public elementary school in Gyeonggi, President Yoon Suk Yeol underscored the significance of public child care on Monday. He assured that a greater number of after-school care opportunities will be made accessible in elementary schools nationwide this year.

Yoon emphasized the necessity of school care to provide parents with the peace of mind to engage in economic and social activities while ensuring their children’s well-being. He advocated for a shift from ‘parents’ care’ to ‘public care.’

In line with this vision, Yoon committed to the expansion of the Neulbom School initiative. This comprehensive program integrates after-school child care and educational activities for students from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., aiming to ease the challenges faced by working parents amidst the country’s declining birth rate.

Commencing next month, the government will introduce the Neulbom program for first graders in 2,000 elementary schools, enabling students to participate in diverse extracurricular activities for before and after-school care within the school premises.

The program’s coverage will extend to all first graders in 6,000 elementary schools nationwide in the second semester of this year, ahead of the initially planned timeline for full implementation next year.

Yoon articulated, “Public education should be the focal point in a democratic society, with schools at its core. Utilizing school facilities for national care is imperative.”

At the ninth public livelihood debate held at Shinwoo Elementary School in Hanam, discussions revolved around public care for students, involving education authorities, parents, teachers, and principals.

Yoon reiterated his commitment to the care and education of children, emphasizing that it is a national duty he continues to pursue diligently.

In response to parents’ feedback, the Ministry of Education decided to make Neulbom School accessible to all elementary school students who desire to participate, unlike the existing system that prioritizes specific family backgrounds.

To alleviate teachers’ workload, 2,250 temporary educators will be deployed to schools on a rotational basis in the first semester of this year. Additionally, a Neulbom support office will be established in all schools next year, drawing personnel from civil servants and retired teachers.

The Education Ministry plans to allocate 1.1657 trillion won ($875 million) to enhance programs, facilities, and staffing to bolster the student care system.

Yoon affirmed, “Creating a child-friendly nation is my foremost priority as president. We must ensure that children are not left unattended after school. Child care is a collective responsibility of our community, both national and local governments, and primarily, the president’s constitutional duty to uphold societal sustainability.”

Deputy Prime Minister Lee Joo-ho, who also serves as the education minister, expressed during the meeting, “We are dedicated to fostering the healthy development of each child and easing the burden of child care and private education on parents through the Neulbom School policy to potentially boost the birth rate.”

Following inputs from parents and educators, Yoon concluded by affirming, “We will allocate ample resources and foster collaboration between central and local governments.”

BY SARAH KIM [[email protected]]