Se-wong Koo in the New York Times on South Korea’s educational system:
“The world may look to South Korea as a model for education — its students rank among the best on international education tests — but the system’s dark side casts a long shadow. Dominated by Tiger Moms, cram schools and highly authoritarian teachers, South Korean education produces ranks of overachieving students who pay a stiff price in health and happiness. The entire program amounts to child abuse. It should be reformed and restructured without delay.
Granted, the South Korean system has its strengths. The idea that success is most important, no matter the cost, is a great motivator. My report card after the first exam in middle school ranked me 21st out of 60 students in my homeroom class. My mother, who was enlightened about the extreme horrors of South Korean education but nevertheless worried about my grades, immediately found me a private tutor for math, which helped me shoot up to a respectable No. 3 in the homeroom hierarchy.
But that was the early 1990s. Since then, this culture of competition has only spread.”
I know I’m a broken record on this, but many South Koreans equate working hard with working smart. They aren’t just different approaches to educational achievement, they’re quite the opposite of one another.
Or to put it another way. where many Koreans see incredible diligence in their sons and daughters staying at school and/or private academies until 11 p.m., I see gaping structural inefficiencies. (Same story for the business culture as well — what do you mean that your employees can’t get their work done, barring a special project, if they don’t stay at work until 11? What the hell are you having them do with their morning and early afternoon hours?)
And as for ESL, well, show me someone with a super high TOEIC (South Korean national English test) score and I’ll show you someone who may or may not speak at an intermediate conversational level. (And that’s definitely not their fault.)
Diane Ravitch’s response (she agrees, and doesn’t want the US to mode itself on the South Korean system).