Korean Education System Essay

Every society has different values, standards of judgment, and tastes. This fact makes that every society has a different culture. Today, there are so many schools in the world and each country school has own character. Schools in Korea and America have a great number of similarities and differences. Both Korean and American schools have several similarities. To begin with, elementary schools are quite similar: there is one teacher for all subjects for each grade, and the classes are coeducational and the majority of the teachers are women.

In addition, the subjects taught at the elementary schools are similar such as reading, writing, mathematics, music, sports and art. In addition, both Korean and American elementary students spend approximately the same number of learning hours per day per week in school: they usually spend about seven to eight hours in a day. In addition, both countries require children to attend school for at least nine years. Usually children start school at age six, and leave at age sixteen.

And after elementary school each country’s middle school has a different teacher for each subject. In spite of these similarities between Korean and USA schools, there are a great number of differences. In Korea, There are six years of elementary school and three years of middle and high school separately. While in America, schools are divided into eight years of elementary and four years of high school. Furthermore, all Korean students who are supposed to graduate from middle school have to choose between academic preparatory and vocational training in high school.

In contrast, American students do not have to choose like Korean students do, but they also have to consider about what direction they are going to be going in: between college preparation and vocational study. Anyone graduating high school in the United States has the opportunity to go to college, although Korean graduating vocational high school students are not qualified to enter the college. University matriculation systems are also different. In Korea, admission to university depends on examination results, That is one of hot issues of Korean education.

For instance, in Korea there is a chart about university evaluation ranking. As a result of this education system, Korean students tend to excel in subjects requiting memorization. However, most students have difficulty in adjusting to curriculum at college such as writing essay or discussion because these are unfamiliar to them. However, American universities are relatively focus on student’s background in terms of school GPA, social activities, voluntary service or writing application essay. Therefore, American high school students should focus on not only exam score, but also other activities to enter the college.

This school education seems more helpful to students in the long term than in the short term. Another main difference is in school and classroom styles: Korean schools, except elementary schools, usually want students to wear uniforms and are divided into male school and female school, whereas in the USA, a few schools require students to wear uniforms and rarely are schools separated into boy and girl schools. In addition, like the past, there is still physical punishment depending on each teacher in Korean school.

Even though it has almost disappeared today, it still remains in case students do not comply with a teacher’s request or a rule of the school. For example, if students do not do their homework by due day, some teachers strike on students’ palms or hips by a stick like a ruler or even a billiard cue. It is actually depending on each teacher’s taste. Such a bad custom was caused by the fact that there were too many students in each class in the past: it might be an easy way for one teacher to teach fifty to sixty adolescent students.

However, teachers at school in the USA cannot inflict corporal punishment on their students at all because no matter where they are not allowed to punish students physically. They usually give a verbal warning or give a penalty point. For example, when students do not do homework or make noise during class, the students’ grade will be reduced by penalty. Another difference in classroom is that in Korean school, after finishing a daily lesson, before going home, all students have to clean up their classrooms, hallways or rest rooms, which are divided by each class.

As students clean up such places themselves through school, they learn how to clean up other places too, whereas after all sessions, American students do not have to clean up their classrooms after classes. To sum up, schools in Korea seem similar to schools in American or different from America. It is true between Korean schools and American schools there are more differences than similarities. Although there are some faults with each system, schools in each country are fitted by circumstances, economics, and traditions. Therefore, no one can judge which school system is the best.

In countries like Finland and Canada, for instance, the levels of performance acchieved by 15 year olds in the areas of mathematics, science and reading are comparable to those achieved by Korean 15 year olds, yet private institutes are not normally the trend either in Canada or in Finland. Unlike Korean students, Canadian students are seen to be under-acchievers if they take part in private education, therefore, the stigma of having to attend private schoos is usually avoided by young Canadians.

What should be of importance to note is the total number of hours Korean students spend studying per week. "Koreans aged between 15 and 24 spent an average of seven hours and 50 minutes per day on studying at school, private crammers or at home as of 2003, nearly three hours longer per day than the OECD average of five hours." (Chosun, 2009) This clearly makes for unhappy students.

When it comes to math education, "while Korean students spent eight hours and 55 minutes per week on math alone, the country ranked second in the OECD's Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2003 with 542 points, after Finland which scored 544 points. Finnish students spend just four hours and 22 minutes per week on math." (Chosun, 2009)


Even if the blame could be placed on the teachers alone, there is an evident problem with the Korean national entrance exam as there is no element of creativity involved in doing well on the test. Effectively, rote learning techniques are the preferred methods of studying for these tests since they are essentially multiple choice tests wherein students are to pick the best answers to each and every question. No essay type questions are contained in the tests, thus the majority of students graduate from high school without learning the basic essay writing skills necessary to succeed at especially American universities, as it is not a required skill for gaining attendance at university.
Furthermore, as a result of the nature of the university entrance exams, and the strong focus in government run schools as well as private schools to prepare students for the exams, there is a strong neglect in the areas of education that involve skills the likes of debate, discussion, creative writing, creative problem solving, hands on learning, independent studies and self time-management just to name a few. 
The aim of these national exams is to make it fair for all students in having to take the same test annually. However, the fairness may largely be lost in that there is a 31.8% discrepancy in the levels of education provided through public schools (according to the PISA 2006 report; p.32), with rich neighborhoods boasting the schools that provide the highest levels of education. Gangnam-gu in Seoul is such a district. Essentially, students who live and thus attend school in these more prominent neighborhoods are expected to be better prepared for the annual entrance exam due to the higher levels of education provided to them through the public school system alone. 
What is more, it is the cost of private education that may very well be the chief determiner in a child's educational success, and so it could essentially be the thickness of the parents' pocket books that dictate the levels of educational success their children are able to achieve.
This is troubling for Korean society since money seems to rule not only in terms of personal economic gain and development but also in terms of academic acchievement.
This kind of education system certainly does not favor the children of poor families. It would be more favorable if it was an education system that allowed everyone to succeed, not according to their parents' pocketbooks but according to their own hard work and potential.
Chosun (2009) 'Korea Youth Study Longest Hours in OECD', Chosun Ilbo, August 10, 2009
Chosun (2010) '9 out of 10 students, with scores in the top 10%, receive private education', (original Korean title: '성적상위 10%, 10명중 9명사교육받아'), Chosun Ilbo, March 7, 2010

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