Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Korean Education Ramblings

Being in Korea and teaching Korean kids every day causes me to think about education a lot. I've always been interested in educational strategies and thinkgs like that, but lately I think more about the state of education in America and in Korea. I see so many differences between education, learning and students here. My life teaching here is very different than it was teachin in the states. Almost every day I realize how vastly different American and Korean educations are. I have second grade students telling me they are "stressed" and that they "didn't do their homework because they were awake until 1am studying Chinese." How education is viewed and valued is different here, and it's really interesting to see it firsthand.

Believed by some to be the best education system in the world, South Korea benefits from heavy state investment in education, as well as an extremely rigorous school day, especially for those in high school. It is widely believed that the government’s desire to invest in “human capital” through concentrating on education has led to the economic success of the nation, as well as extremely high literacy and high school graduation rates.

Korea is a stark contrast to America in many ways- particularly education. Korean society has realized the importance of education and have continued to really push education. This can be seen by the fact that their student far exceed American students in every aspect, except having a life out of school. Unfortunatley I think they take it too far, to the point where they "burn out" their students too early. Meaning, the education system is so stressful on the students that they are feeling so much pressure to succeed and be the best at a young age. Koreans put too much emphasis on education to the point where their students have nothing but school in their lives. At the same time, I think spending this much time in books also does not provide many "street smarts" or creativity to be learned or expressed. Also, many schools neglect physical education because classroom instruction is too rigorous to take a break.

Im not saying American education  is better, because in fact I think it has MANY problems and in many ways is failing students. However, when it comes to education I think Id rather be overly compensated in this area then under-compensated. I would hope I could survive that stress in the Korean system to get the basics they provide. However, I think students shouldn't have to pick one or the other.

Koreans are very smart. They study much harder than the average American and they are taught to memorize. They go to school Monday through Saturday for an average of 3 hours more a day than Americans. At age 13 they take midterm tests and final tests for which they study for several weeks in advance. I teach at a private academy where kids come after regular school.

I realize that Koreans are taught more information. They generally have a greater amount of knowledge about a greater number of subjects. However, I think what is important is that we teach all students WHAT TO DO WITH the information they learn. We can't just ask them to memorize information and retain it, without giving them an outlet to USE it.


. In Korea:
Level/GradeTypical age
Elementary School
1st Grade7-8
2nd Grade8-9
3rd Grade9-10
4th Grade10-11
5th Grade11-12
6th Grade12-13
Middle School
7th grade13-14
8th Grade14-15
9th Grade15-16
High School
10th Grade16-17
11th Grade17-18
12th Grade18-19
Post-secondary education

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