Korea And Its Education System

Every year on the 10th of November, South Korea will prepare for the annual university entrance exam. The exam is the one which will decide the future of the students. The exam separates the students by their results – those who do well in the exam get streamed into the best universities. There, they get a good degree, and this will secure the rest of their lives in a good job country. However, those that do not do as well in the exam will then be sent to lower-tiered universities or not even admitted into university at all. As a result, they can only join a less prestigious firm, and since their culture discourages the changing of jobs, they may be stuck there for the rest of their lives.

This system has both advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that the system is efficient. It quickly identifies those will high academic standards, and pushes them into the faster stream. Students have the chance to learn faster, and have more chances to develop themselves. The system drives the students to put in their best effort in preparation of the exam. Right now, there is only one route to success – the route through doing well academically. Thus, the only focus that the students in South Korea have is on their academic work. It hones the potential of those who have the talent, and allows the Korean society to maximize resources to develop faster in times of crisis. For instance, despite last year’s economic crisis, South Korea’s economy still grew by 6.2%.

There are many disadvantages too. The nickname for South Korea is the one-shot society. In the country, the students get only one chance to become successful in life – the examination. Those who don’t do well and trip up during the exam will never have the chance to bring themselves forward. This makes South Korea seem like a cruel society – they only give the young one chance. Those who fail are cast aside, and only the cream of the crop receive good opportunities. A survey showed that 100% of Korean parents want their children to go to university. There is a question that we must ask – does society really need everyone to go to university? Some who decide to go to other professions that do not require a university degree are still forced to go to there by both their parents and societal pressure. Even before they went to university, attending high school in South Korea is already very hectic. The Economist interviewed a student, and it seemed that the schedule that most students had were studying seven days a week from 7am to 4pm in school, and then self-studying from then until midnight. I feel that such a schedule is putting too much stress on the child. Korea already has one of the highest suicide rates. Among middle and high school students, one-fifth of them had contemplated suicide before. In 2009, an astonishing 202 students had committed suicide. Obviously, this is not the ideal society, and is a bad use of human resources. As a result of there being the only choice but to study hard, the students will not only become lop-sided, but have no chance to express and develop their imagination. Another result of having a system like Korea’s is that the cost of bringing up a child who will be outstanding in society is exorbitant. Therefore, most parents will only give birth to one child. This will result in the birth rate declining, which is ultimately bad for the country.

The education system of South Korea has come under worldwide scrutiny recently. Undoubtedly, the system is effective and produces top students, but there are dire side effects as well. Many Western countries are obviously envious of the results produced by the country; yet do not want to implement a similar system for fear of causing damage to their youths. Right now, I feel that there is no need for the Asian country to make amendments to their education system. In my opinion, it should be the parents and students that need to change. First, the parents need to understand that different children have different talents and interests. Not everyone can become a successful lawyer or a great engineer. The children then need to effectively tell their parents what they want for their future. Do they want to become a lawyer, an engineer, or what? This makes it clear and easy for the parents to make a decision together with their child. The parents, on the other hand, need to be understanding and not force their children to spend the rest of their lives doing something that they do not enjoy. Stronger parent-child bonds also need to be forged to make sure that the children do not commit rash acts as a result of their stress.


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Hi guys, I'm a student in Singapore, and this are some thoughts and essays I have written over the years.