Navigating conflicting desires: parenting practices and the meaning of educational work in urban East Asia

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Today parents are faced with increasing expectations to attend to their young children’s learning and cognitive development. South Korea and Singapore are well-known for their competitive education systems and for consistently topping international student assessment tests. They also share an inflated private tuition industry, fuelled by the assumption that parents are compelled to invest substantial resources and time to support their children's development and education. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Seoul and Singapore, the article explores how middle-class parents of pre- and primary school children negotiate seemingly conflicting aspirations of academic achievement versus emotional well-being and resilience. The findings unveil how parents strive to cultivate positive attitudes towards learning through management of time and space in everyday life. In particular, it draws attention to the moral imperative to raise children who enjoy learning, as a way to reconcile parents’ twofold aspiration to upskill their children and cultivate their emotional well-being.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-178
Number of pages18
JournalEthnography & Education
Issue number2
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Mar 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Educational Sciences
  • Social Work

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