Friday, July 29, 2011

Korea, whose students dominate international exams, also is the least satisfied with its educational system within Asia. Only 56 percent of Koreans responded that they were satisfied with their educational system. The approval ratings were similarly low for other high-achieving nations like Japan (61%) or Taiwan (74%). Interestingly, over 95 percent of Singaporeans were satisfied with their educational system.

This says something, but the Korean is not sure what -- at least for now.

62 comments:

  1. The study on your old post on testing http://askakorean.blogspot.com/2011/01/ask-korean-news-testing-makes-you.html makes the point that although students that do testing perform better, they feel that they learned less.

    Perhaps this principle generalizes - school systems which work well inevitably appear unsatisfactory to the students in that system.

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  2. The impression I get is that there is a general consensus in Korea that the education system is broken, but no one is sure how to fix it. It's not that the system doesn't educate, but the cost in both time and money to educate each student is too great for what they get from it. I'm not simply talking about the schools themselves but the entire system of crams schools and the pressure to enroll children into them earlier and longer by the never ending educational arms race among parents. Supposedly it's worse than other peer nations like Japan and Taiwan. It's a vicious cycle, but no one is sure how to break it.

    My cousin tells me that cram schools for example are no longer simply reserved for middle school and older but is now becoming common for elementary and even pre-elementary students. Some people are even arguing that one of the reasons the birthrate is so low is because the cost of raising a child in the Korean system has simply become too expensive.

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  3. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I feel much of the dissatisfaction with the education system stems from the fact that officials aren't sure if students would achieve the same scores or higher on the PISA and similar tests if a drastic overhaul of the system were to occur. I think the general consensus, though, is that students need to be spending less time at 학원s and cram schools, and more time learning how to be "creative" and "innovative", approaching a more western model. I think that would be a great idea, as long as it doesn't entirely jeopardize emphases on memorization and test-taking.

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  4. Maybe they're not satisfied cause their kids have the highest suicide rate in the world and also because their education is not achieved through the public sector alone (or even predominantly) but must be subsidized by pricey academies and tutors!

    Or, possibly, some people are disturbed by the lack of creativity and critical thinking present in children who have it beaten (sometimes literally) out of them.

    I'm sick of the romanticizing of the Korean educational system on this blog. Good in tests doesn't mean good in life or on the job when people must adapt and make decisions and think outside the box.

    I strive to teach my kids at the academy to ask why, to come up with their own ideas, and to follow their passions, but as I see them only 1 or 2 days a week I doubt I can make much impact.

    What saddens me most is that rather than feeling hopeful that the Korean system will adopt changes that will emphasize creativity and critical thinking more it seems like the world is going the opposite direction with the U.S. wanting to replicate test scores over love of learning, critical thinking or substance.

    For someone who loves Korea so much and its educational system, I notice that you're not living there anymore. Would you rather your child were educated in a Korean or an American school? And why or why not?

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  5. And as to the rote memorization language learning concept - that will get you half-way there - but if you're not living in a culture where you're also immersed in a language - as you were immersed in English upon coming to America - you're not going to learn to speak magically through rote memorization, something I see every day in my students.

    You need both immersion and memorization to learn a language once you're past a certain age. Students who know how to write the definitions for words like "catastrophe" are often too shy or too inexperienced at speaking to put together simple answers to questions like "How are you?" and "What did you do today?" in complete sentences, until they've been in an immersion speaking class for a while.

    Spoken language is just as important, if not moreso, than written in the context of the work world.

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  6. Jennifer- I don't think that TK ever said that immersion was unnecessary or unimportant. He simply stated that he has seen a trend nowadays of language teachers advocating "fun" or "easy" ways of learning. Although certain methods may be effective, TK asserted that they are never enough, and basic rote memorization is *also* an important and necessary part of language learning. Just the same as what you're saying, I think :)

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  7. I think it's the experience of the education system in Korea that provides such unsatisfactory ratings. I'm all for working hard and studying hard, etc.... but when kids are pressured so much to do something well and they do it out of fear, not b/c they really want to get a certain score on a test for themselves, then the experience sucks and they're unhappy.

    Similar to the the fanatic sports parents of the US. So many kids are pushed into a sport, and leagues, and tournaments, and practices, that many times, the kids maybe don't even like playing that sport and really don't care if they get good at it, but they have no choice but to go along. Especially if all their peers are on that team. And then what happens when these US kids get to become adults? Certainly not professional athletes (for the most part), as we (the US), still get a lot of pros from overseas.

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  8. Jennifer,

    I'm sick of the romanticizing of the Korean educational system on this blog.

    The Korean is so sorry someone has a gun to your head and forcing you to read this blog. Must be terrifying.

    Would you rather your child were educated in a Korean or an American school? And why or why not?

    Please read the policy, available at the top of the blog.

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  9. Wow.... I've been reading this blog for some time and enjoy it quite a bit. I am just amazed by some of the comments I read here. If you don't like what TK says why in the hell are you reading his blog????? Also, not only does he NOT claim to be an expert on most of the issues discussed he often has some sort of disclaimer in his posts stating this. It's a personal blog discussing Korean and other worldly topics from one guys point of view. Don't get so bent out of shape about it. Sorry for the rant. Anyway... I love the blog and enjoy your point of view.

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  10. "What saddens me most is that rather than feeling hopeful that the Korean system will adopt changes that will emphasize creativity and critical thinking more it seems like the world is going the opposite direction with the U.S. wanting to replicate test scores over love of learning, critical thinking or substance." says Jennifer.

    I don't believe getting good test scores is exclusive of love of learning, critical thinking, or substance. In many tests, you do have to think critically to come up with the right answer. Also, one starts to "love" doing something when they get good at it. So to love to learn, one has to practice learning and getting the appropriate feedback that they are in fact learning, which usually is in the form of tests. I think the world would we better in replicating high test scores than by, what? - what other model is better? The model where US teachers help their students cheat on standardized tests b/c their students egos are crushed since they can't pass those tests?

    http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/philadelphia-english-teacher-explains-why-she-helped-students-160244016.html

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  11. Jennifer,

    THANK YOU for your response. I really enjoyed reading your messages, filled with love and compassion towards your Korean students. What is wrong with the Korean educational system? Nothing is wrong if to pass the test with the highest score is your one and only goal. Yes, Korea is one of the top countries for PISA scores, yes, it is one of the top countries for innovations and patents pending, which means the Koreans are leading the world in creativity. But there are other lists where Korea is also on the very top. One is the list of the suicides rate: Korea is currently number 2, between Lithuania and Kazakhstan. Also, there is a list of the World's Happiest Countries made up by the researchers at the Gallup World Poll. Korea stands #56, between Belarus, Kosovo and Poland. How can they NOT feel happy with those wonderful test results? Oh, and by the way, when you go to Korea - how many people can speak to you in more or less decent English or at least understand what you are saying? I have not met too many. I know "The Korean" is not aware of the idea of comprehensible input and in favor of rote learning which, by the way, does not work for language acquisition. Thank you for pointing this out, Jennifer. I am not here to say negative things about Korea, don't get me wrong. I love Korea and Korean people. I love the language, the country, the culture. But there is a fine line between being a patriot and being a nationalist. This is a great blog and I learn a lot from reading all the posts, but the posts are quite skewed towards subjectivity. Yes, "the Korean" has the right to say whatever he wants and however he wants - it is his blog after all. But he also bears the responsibility to research the facts and to be honest about things that are... hmmm... not so nice and sometimes just plain ugly. And this is where things get really interesting, because this is not "the Korean"s fault. He does not even know he is doing it. The reason behind is that he has been living in the US for a very long time and everything that is associated with Korea, his native country, looks in a different light. He misses his culture, the things that he used to have when he was growing up. In NLP it is called "anchoring". By the way, when people who have been living abroad for a long time come back to their own country, they experience culture shock. And the very first phase of the culture shock? The honeymoon phase. See more at http://www.nhtvwiki.nl/wiki02/index.php?title=Culture_shock
    Oh, and by the way, one of the top scoring countries, according to PISA, is Finland, where nobody even heard of the cram schools and private tutoring is not a common practice. Thank you one more time.

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  12. Yes, "the Korean" has the right to say whatever he wants and however he wants - it is his blog after all. But he also bears the responsibility to research the facts and to be honest about things that are... hmmm... not so nice and sometimes just plain ugly.

    Because having a post that says Koreans are not satisfied with their educational system says nothing but good things about Korea's educational system, right?

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  13. Haha! Korean. Indeed you are cool just like u mentioned in your profile.

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  14. I have done some research and found the answer to your question:

    1. Please watch this video about the Korean educational system (sorry, do not know how to embed)
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/world_news_america/8605789.stm

    2. Just to compare - this video is about the Finnish educational system:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8601207.stm

    Thanks again.

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  15. From the BBC link about the Finnish education system:

    "In 2006, Finland's pupils scored the highest average results in science and reading in the whole of the developed world. In the OECD's exams for 15 year-olds, known as PISA, they also came second in maths, beaten only by teenagers in South Korea."

    Thank you and please drive through.

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  16. When we compare the amount of time Finnish teenagers and Korean teenagers spend studying on a daily basis Finnish students (and thus Finnish educational system) win hands down, this is just plain math. In fact, Finnish schoolchildren spend the least amount of time at school compared to other European countries.

    And, by the way, being polite to people who are passionate and caring enough to leave comments after your posts is just common courtesy.

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  17. And, by the way, being polite to people who are passionate and caring enough to leave comments after your posts is just common courtesy.

    The Korean agrees -- which ought to make you think about how you are coming across.

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  18. The blogger is usually the one who sets the tone for the comments that follow. My comment about displaying the common courtesy was related to the following statements: "The Korean is so sorry someone has a gun to your head and forcing you to read this blog. Must be terrifying." and "Thank you and please drive through."

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  19. Look, this post is about how Korean parents are dissatisfied with Korean education. Not about how awesome Korean education is. And the fact that Jennifer speaks of "romanticizing" Korean education is just a bit too rich, given that this post does the exact opposite of romanticizing. If I wanted to romanticize Korean education, why would I even have this post?

    And then you come in with your condescension about how I am not "honest" about bad parts of Korea and I am somehow totally blind to those bad parts. Please. Just look at the front page of this blog, and I have a post about how K-pop is corrupt and people were arrested. I have tons of posts about racism, sexism, corruption, and ridiculous politics of Korea. If you read this blog, it should be clearly obvious that I have eyes wide open to those issues.

    So excuse me when I gently snark at you in response to the fact that you talk about what I don't know to another person without even bothering to address me. Thanks.

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  20. I did not mean to sound disrespectful or condescending. If my message sounds even remotely rude to you - I apologize. There is not a word in my post about any dishonesty on your part, because I would never not only write but even imply that.
    However (there is a "but" part, of course) teachers on average(and I am one of them) are extremely passionate about their educational beliefs, especially if this is something that they bear close to their hearts. I am not upset when people offer their subjective opinions - after all, we all have our views and have the right to express them. I am disappointed when people only provide a partial answer, only some facts without proper research and analysis. Just to give you an example, how would you feel if a person from, let's say, Sweden, told you what he thinks should be the ingredients in kimchi? His opinion would be very valuable, but it would make you a bit apprehensive if he only knew one ingredient. This is how I feel when people from outside (and sometimes even inside) of educational circles tell their opinions without doing the actual research. By the way, every time my Korean students are leaving for Korea and have to go back to the public school system, they are upset for DAYS, some are even crying. You would think they are going to jail. The letters that they send me look like this: "Ms. B, I am dying here. I only had four hours of sleep last night" etc. Yes, our school's Advanced math class is comprised of all Koreans. Yes, there are only Koreans in our school's winning team for the international competition in math and science (out of 64 nationalities). But all of them lived outside Korea for most of their lives and they still outperform other students because their parents are smart enough to provide extra tutoring and send them to Saturday school. This was off-topic, by the way. I humbly request of you: when you do write about educational issues could you please please please show some respect to us, professional educators, and research the subject more thoroughly? On my behalf, I promise never to make a comment about the area where I am not an expert. So far I have read three of your posts about educational issues and all three offer only partial facts thus leading readers to believe something that is not exactly true (please do not take this last sentence as a negative remark - I do not mean to be impolite and I hope you are not going to take it that way). Thank you. Kamsahamnida.

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  21. Is it fair to compare Finland to other large population countries? Finland, and the other Scandanavian countries for that matter, generally have very small populations. The entire population of Finland is less than half that of Seoul city.

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  22. This is just my opinion from my small sample set. Several years ago, I was interview by a MBA team. The Korean girl was the most aggressive and brightest student on the team. 10 years later I hired two graduates from the Taiwan National University and one from Japan. These kids that I hired from Taiwan and Japan were the worst employees that I ever had. They know how to test well and do tasks. But they could not think. I had to show them step by step how to do stuff. My impression of the Asian school systems is to teach them how to test. I rather hire someone from the American school system because they can at least think on their own.

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  23. vb,

    I really do not know what implication to draw, other than a charge of dishonesty, when you urge that I be honest. But that's ok -- you clarified your statement, and we have all made word choices that were less than ideal. I do not wish to belabor this point.

    As to respecting professional educators -- both of my parents are teachers. My life's aspiration is to be one, albeit at a university/graduate school level. Of course I respect them. In fact, I think I have been doing a good job at it. Heck, just look at this post. All I did was present the facts. I did not even give any opinion, although everyone knows I have plenty of opinion about everything. And any reader will know that this is an incomplete thought. It takes up all of five lines.

    I have been writing an education related series for a year now. I still cannot complete it, because there is so much reading that I still have to do, all the meanwhile Korean educational system is changing dramatically. You don't have to tell me to research thoroughly.

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  24. Not to mention that Korean international students have a higher dropout rate from U.S. colleges than other nationalities.

    So something is wrong here.

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  25. I have no idea why these people are accusing the Korean of romanticizing the South Korean education system or providing false information regarding the education system. His post's focal point is the fact that South Koreans are not satisfied with their education system.

    It's kind of funny and sad at the same time that both Jennifer and vb are teachers who nonetheless seem to have missed the whole point of the post.

    @Nite - I think part of this may stem from cultural differences. In South Korea, college is widely seen as a time to completely blow off steam, have fun, and party. Although the same could be said for universities in America, the academic work in American universities is much more rigorous than at Korean universities, and much more so at elite universities. In my (limited) experience, Korean internationals who have worked their butts off in high school come to college in the States expecting it to be more or less a joke, and end up suffering the consequences. Many Korean Americans who grow up under the same/similar cultural framework as Korean internationals (high academic standards, attending private academies, etc.) tend to do better in college than their KI counterparts.

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  26. To Wordykorean,

    With all my respect I did get the point of TK's focal point. However, my point is that writing a statement "Korean students dominate international exams" leaves the readers with an incorrect impression that this somehow reflects on Korean students overall high academic achievement. My point of view (and most educational research supports it) that multiple-choice test results are not an accurate measure of the student achievement and long-term retention. In fact, it is recommended (and all teachers know it) that a test would make only a part of evaluation process. Plus, there is quite a difference between a multiple - choice test (and PISA test is a multiple choice test, because there is only one right answer for every question) and an assignment where you would have to apply critical thinking skills. All multiple-choice tests are categorized as standardized tests. What Jennifer (another teacher, I assume) correctly pointed out is attaining high grades on the multiple-choice tests does not necessarily produces better learning.

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  27. The Korean,

    Thank you for sharing your life aspirations with me. It is very noble of you to consider going into teaching. My mom was an educator as well. Let me assure you that you are doing a great job with this blog and we are all learning a lot.
    As for educational research. I have been teaching for seventeen years now and my last twelve years I have spent researching educational topics, with my particular interest in long-term retention and the brain. I have also conducted an extended research on second language acquisition process. Only now, at the end of my seventeen years of teaching and researching, I am beginning to realize that many educational ideas that I held so dear to my heart were not only false, but in some aspects detrimental to my students. I applaud you in your research. If you ever have the time, please watch some videos or read some books by Dr. Stephen Krashen, my favorite professor. I actually attended five of his sessions and I share his views. He is one of the prominent critics of the Obama administration in terms of changing American educational system and a relentless opponent of Arne Duncan (who should get the chair in my opinion). Another educator, also somewhat marginalized, is Alfie Kohn, who continues to rattle the American educational system with his inconvenient statements. As for the dramatic changes in Korean educational system - I would love to know more about them. Thank you.

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  28. Huggleberry - totally agree! And on top of it all the child poverty levels in Finland (and the reading scores are highly correlated with poverty levels) are only 4%. Now, the population of the US is like six times larger than that of the South Korea and the poverty level for American children are above 22%. (Could not find the data on South Korea). By the way, when adjusted for child poverty levels, American students preform the best on those PISA scores.

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  29. People seem to have the misperception that students are ultra-diligent in American universities (especially elite universities) and not in Korean universities. Based on personal experience (I initially attended Seoul National University in 2004 and subsequently transferred and graduated from Yale University) - I can attest that this perception is completely false. College students in U.S. are just as lazy (or diligent) - you get both kinds all across the board. On average, I would say neither group of students are particularly diligent. I think the thing to focus on is not the diligence of the students, but rather the way classrooms are conducted - SNU professors still tend to think they are king of the world and should not be challenged, whereas in U.S., the process tended to be more collaborative, although you do find professors at Yale that are just as liable to perceive themselves as god. Just my two cents on those who always assume that college students in Korea just "breeze" through. Also, note the dearth of jobs these days which forces Korean college kids to study (although in my opinion, the wrong things) from day 1.

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  30. the lyrics from Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" come to mind: "We don't need no education...We don't need no thought-control." I'll play devil's advocate here and say this: the education system in Korea and the USA are both wonderful. They produce obedient workers, well-prepared from an overpriced education that focuses on standardized test-taking and very little in critical thinking, fear joblessness and are ready to help maintain the status quo, all while helping to increase corporate profits." -- CEO, Corporate America (or Korea)...

    Soon, we won't be able to tell the difference between a school and a corporation, as education systems across the world mold themselves after the neo-liberal economic model & policies. Education is nothing more than a system that feeds graduates into either the labor force or the military. It's no longer about imagining or learning for the sake of learning.

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  31. we come from a competitive country, with a lot of competitive people. sometimes I do wonder if we are competing for the right things. as many people have already commented, higher test scores and the number of patents filed, does not necessarily mean happier people...not even close.

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  32. Happiness is a very overrated concept.

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  33. Most Singaporeans are satisfied with their educational system because it is still based on the age old British educational system which they believe to be tried and proven. They strongly believe that continuing this legacy system is a good idea because of its traditionally predominantly academic focus.(not to say that others aren't)

    It's just that to Singaporeans, since the system is tried and proven over the years, then the belief is that if it ain't broken, don't fix it. They do try to incorporate newer elements to this current system albeit rather slowly.(see the conservative trait there? slow to change?)

    Saying that, many who might not have been part of the stats, would have gone overseas to pursue their education(and some not returned). So if this group was to be asked, they'll reveal a different opinion altogether :)

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  34. TK- you keep saying "happiness is an overrated concept." I would beg to differ. I think you're absolutely right that the kind of fleeting happiness emphasized these days (the kind in ads- buy this and you'll be happy, travel here and you'll be happy, etc.) is overrated. But in my opinion happiness and satisfaction with a job well done go together. It's true that as children we think playing several more hours of video games rather than studying for the test tomorrow will make us "happy" (and then we learn that the misery tomorrow far surpasses the fleeting "happiness" of yesterday). But on a broad social level, I don't think happiness is overrated. People are happy when they have work (or some other mission in life) that is meaningful to them, when they believe in what they are doing on some level and feel proud of their accomplishments. Of course there are plenty of people in Korea, just like anywhere, who have experienced the happiness that fulfillment after hard work brings. But the recent rise in the suicide rate IS alarming, and as someone writing a dissertation on child-rearing and navigations of the education system in Korea, I hear a lot of talk (from Koreans in all walks of life, not instant-gratification Americans) about re-evaluating what happiness means as a society. I am the last to advocate a consumption-based, me-first happiness, but don't think real happiness is an overrated concept.

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  35. I think you're absolutely right that the kind of fleeting happiness emphasized these days ... is overrated.

    Then we have no disagreement.

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  36. Hi, TK!

    Just few guesses here from the local Korean. BTW, I am about to be a 학부형.

    1. Thoroughness of the Survey.
    I really had communication problem with my parents and did so-so when I was in mid to high school. If one of my parents were to go through that survey, he or she is likely to see the satisfaction of Korean Edu system through me. What if this is not just a personal experience and is prevalent phenomenon of our Korean baby-boom generation fathers and mothers(53~60's?) who were too busy to build up the country from scratch and look after the kids? I hoped to see how thorough the survey was, and how the survey tries to categorize its target, but could not find details. Also, I cannot compare this with other people and other country's similar social factors, so my first guess stopped here.

    2. Gangster Teachers
    When I worked with Americans many years ago, we once started to talk about high school teachers. All Koreans were able to tell at least a story of how a teacher who literally beat the shit out of a student, and how a teacher can fuck a kid up once he(btw, it is HE 99%) makes the kid targeted. And just from my experiences those brutal teacher type WAS prevalent in Korean until early 90's. Funny thing is I get the sense that it was even worse before. Could this lead anywhere in that survey analysis? Gangster teacher is, I dare to say, the fourth talkative topic among Korean men next to army, soccer, and playing soccer in army. And I felt it quite can fix one's view on overall education system where such teachers are allowed to be.

    3. University: Ivory-tower vs Adult-class Practical Hagwon for Industries
    I remember reading article that industry HR demand for certain fields is not sufficiently satisfactory in the industry's point of view. Although XX% of students get degrees, HR departments were discontent with recruits in certain fields, if I remember correctly. I am too lazy to search further, so my third guess stopped here.

    4. Different Measurement of Happiness
    Does not ROK suck in that list of "Happy Nation" chart? I just have not seen enough where ROK ranked high in happiness or satisfactory related chart. In my opinion being disatisfactory is neither good nor bad. It just is. And, I thought this aspect which I also embrace might affect the survey.

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  37. Happiness is a very overrated concept.

    The suicide rate among the young in Korea would beg to differ.

    http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2011/05/113_86319.html

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  38. To OaO - sorry, the whole nick it too long - thank you for the article. As for "happiness", here is the the source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satisfaction_with_Life_Index

    Sorry, I should have listed it earlier.

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  39. It is very interesting to see other people's comments on education. I also would love to see any long-term study results, if you come across, please send them my way :)
    I believe is that there is no such thing is the best educational system in the world. But I do believe some educational systems are better then others, however, they should be compared not by the test results (even though it is a necessary component) but by the impact the system has on children. In educational circles Finnish and Swedish educational systems are often mentioned as model educational systems (even though I am neither Finnish nor Swedish, as an educator, I agree with many practices they implement). However, when it comes to math curriculum (and only math), most professors/educators mention Shanghai (even though it is not a country) and Japan. I am not that familiar with the Korean educational system other than what I know from my students and their parents and this is probably biased. Would be interesting to see which direction it will take. From my own experience, American educational system, like yin and yang, has its "good and bad", some stronger points and some weaker points as well.

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  40. The suicide rate among the young in Korea would beg to differ.

    The fact that people actually die from shark attacks does not mean people never overrate the danger of shark attacks.

    To wit: even with world's leading suicide rate among youth, 0.78% of Koreans die at the ages between 0 and 19. In contrast, 1.22% of Americans die at the ages between 0 and 19 -- i.e. at more than 50% greater rate. Even with "happiness deficit," Korean children are doing better than their American counterpart. Then does it make sense for Americans to focus so much on "happiness," however defined? No. And that's my point.

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  41. vb:

    By the way, when adjusted for child poverty levels, American students preform the best on those PISA scores.

    Could you give us a citation? I'm interested in reading more about this. Cheers.

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  42. What does young people dying in incubators or drowning in pools have to do with happiness?

    Chooosing to take one's life is very directly connected to both levels of happiness and the nature of the educational system, both of which were the topics of discussion in this thread. The suicide rate is relevant to this discussion and the overall death rate is not.

    You're grasping at straws.

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  43. What does young people dying in incubators or drowning in pools have to do with happiness?

    It does not. That was the point. And apparently you don't get it.

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  44. To explain, since your comprehension sounds a bit slow:

    I said, "Happiness is overrated." You objected, because the high suicide rate in Korea indicates that happiness is properly rated, presumably because lack of happiness leads to deaths.

    To that, my response was that many more deaths happen with reasons that have nothing to do with happiness. (Hope that sounds familiar, because if it doesn't, it means you didn't read what I wrote -- as I noticed you are wont to do.) If death is important (as you posited,) the proper focus is NOT happiness. But people focus on happiness much more so than, say, preventing deaths in incubators or pool accidents. That makes happiness overrated.

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  45. Suicide is the leading cause of death among Koreans 15-24. For those with slow comprehension, that means that if death is important and lack of happiness is associated with suicide, then in Korea, happiness is most certainly very underrated for that segment of the population.

    Also for those with slow comprehension, leading cause of death means that suicide kills more Koreans 15-24 than any other cause. So saying that "many more deaths happen with reasons that have nothing to do with happiness" for the group that the article I linked to was referring, is patently false.

    Since infants, toddlers, and elementary school children very rarely commit suicide and were not part of the group I was discussing, you bringing them into the discussion was irrelevant to begin with.

    This post is about the education system and the suicide rate was brought up by another commenter as one of the detrimental effects of having a high-pressure, results-at-all-costs system. That topic is what I was referring to, and has nothing to do with deaths among those in the 0-6 range (and arguably in the 7-10 range as well), which is roughly a third (or half) of the group you provided statistics for. The 15-24 age group is high school and college age, and completely relevant to the topic.

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  46. This post is about the education system and the suicide rate was brought up by another commenter as one of the detrimental effects of having a high-pressure, results-at-all-costs system. That topic is what I was referring to[.]

    I'm only going by your words, chum. In this comment, you did not refer to any of the things you are claiming to be referring here. Instead, what you were referring to was my specific comment: "Happiness is a very overrated concept."

    Seriously, don't make me go back and show you your own words. I dislike embarrassing people. Read carefully what you wrote, then what I wrote, then try again.

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  47. I'm only going by your words, chum. In this comment, you did not refer to any of the things you are claiming to be referring here. Instead, what you were referring to was my specific comment: "Happiness is a very overrated concept."

    You might have a point if I hadn't included a link with it. You run a blog and you're not familiar with adding a link to a comment which expands upon it or backs it up with further information? Did you read the Korea Times link that I included, because if you had, you'd know that it refers to everything I claimed it referred to.

    Seriously, don't make me go back and show you your own words. I dislike embarrassing people. Read carefully what you wrote, then what I wrote, then try again.

    Your inability to recognize that a link was related to a comment, and failing in actually reading that link and seeing that simple connection, is the embarrassment.

    Kudos to you for using your own poor comprehension as a weapon though. At least your ignorance exudes confidence.

    Read my comment, READ THE LINK, and try again.

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  48. Korean,
    I get the impression that you don't think Western education methods are sufficiently rigorous, which accounts for the achievement gap between American students and their Asian peers. On the other hand, I think the statistic you posted about childhood mortality rates actually serves to illuminate the real reason for the poor performance of American students on international exams.

    Simply put, America has a big childhood poverty problem, which I believe accounts for both the high levels of youth mortality and the poor educational outcomes we see. Kids who grow up in poverty oftentimes don't have parents who read to them, or provide many other opportunities for intellectual enrichment outside of school. They are already at a huge educational disadvantage when they enter the doors.

    As long as Korea doesn't develop a huge childhood poverty problem, I don't think the academic performance of her children will deteriorate too much, regardless of what education reforms are undertaken. Rote memorization in hagwons is certainly one method for providing educational enrichment, but it's certainly not the only one out there. As the Korean education system evolves away from an emphasis on rote learning, I'm sure parents and students here will come to discover and embrace these other methods.

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  49. Did you read the Korea Times link that I included, because if you had, you'd know that it refers to everything I claimed it referred to.

    When you put up one of my quotes and write something underneath it, it is presumed that you are responding to my quote, not on the overall state of Korean education -- my original quote covers a lot more than Korean education.

    But whatever. Like I said earlier, I am not the one to drone forever on a less-than-ideal word choice or even writing. You want to make a point that happiness should be important in Korean education. You could have made that point in one comment instead of five, but regardless you made it now. Good work.

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  50. J.B.,

    Your point is very valid and very important. But poverty does not capture everything that is wrong about American education. When the PISA exam score is restricted to the top 5 percent of each country, American students scored last in both math and science. In other words, even our very best students (presumably those who had the right home and school environment) fall behind in an apples-to-apples comparison. That statistic is just frightening, and hints that there is more than child poverty problem in American education.

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  51. Sorry, even though I promised myself not to comment on this post anymore, I HAD TO provide your readers with this link. It is an article by Alfie Kohn on standardized testing and its validity. Even though he only speaks about American education, his message can be easily applied to any country. PLEASE READ: http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/testcheating.htm

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  52. The Korean,

    I just read your answer to JB. As an educator, I have to comment. Sorry. TK, this is incorrect. Here is a quote: "In other words, even our very best students (presumably those who had the right home and school environment) fall behind in an apples-to-apples comparison. That statistic is just frightening, and hints that there is more than child poverty problem in American education."
    I am going to say it so everybody understands my point: standardized tests, no matter how objective and valid they are DO NOT MEASURE student's learning. Let me say it one more time: EVEN THE BEST STANDARDIZED TESTS OUT THERE DO NO and I repeat DO NOT MEASURE STUDENT'S LEARNING. So what do they measure? There is only one thing they measure and predict: how well students can perform on standardized tests. When teachers prep students to perform well on standardized tests, in educational circles it is called teaching to the test and it is considered a VERY BAD PRACTICE. It is NOT REAL LEARNING. What is more frightening is that Korean students perform so well on those tests. They are achieving those high scores at what expense? Long school hours? Cram schools? Sleep deprivation? High stress levels? One of my favorite philosophers, Socrates, said: "Education is not the filling of the vessel, but kindling of a flame". I remember the experiment that I conducted in all my classes last year. In our school we used online grading system where parents and students could see their grades/test results instantly. One semester I stopped giving grades and grading papers. Entirely. At first some parents complained and the students were asking about their grades. I told them not to worry and just kept on teaching. THAT WAS THE ONLY SEMESTER when all my students wanted to learn more. They did not ask me "What did I get on the test?" They asked me questions that were BEYOND our school's curriculum. I am not defending American education here, God knows, they have enough problems, especially now with all this testing, but I am here to say: the results of PISA test DO NOT INDICATE THAT Korean educational system is superior. The only thing that they indicate is that Korean students do well on standardized tests. Nothing else. And it is not necessarily a good thing. Education is not a race, it is not about "whose car gets there faster". Education is about rewiring your brain. There are many things that Korean parents (and I want to stress) PARENTS are doing well: 1. Every Korean student I ever had knew how to play a musical instrument, either a piano or a violin. There is strong evidence that learning how to play a musical instrument boosters brain development. 2. Most of my Korean students eat very healthy, they usually bring home lunches and eat very little junk food. 3. Most of my Korean students show great respect for their teachers and they never question their teachers. Not sure if this is a good thing, but it makes my job so much easier!
    I hope I was polite enough in my reply. I might be a little worked up, but it is not about you. It is about the issue. I care. I know you care too, but we see it from two different sides, where you are looking from the outside and I am on the inside. Thank you one more time.

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  53. EVEN THE BEST STANDARDIZED TESTS OUT THERE DO NO [sic] and I repeat DO NOT MEASURE STUDENT'S LEARNING. So what do they measure? There is only one thing they measure and predict: how well students can perform on standardized tests.

    The Korean will only note that this statement is by no means uncontroversial. Just a few supporting materials:

    "Validity of the SAT for Predicting First-Year College Grade Point Average" (2010)

    UC and the SAT: Predictive Validity and Differential Impact of the SAT I and SAT II at the University of California (2002)

    The SAT I and High School Grades: Utility in Predicting Success in College (2000)

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  54. "Validity of the SAT for Predicting First-Year College Grade Point Average" (2010)
    You know these are the same people that run the SAT. I am not saying there results are wrong. But they have a lot riding on this research especially with some colleges not requesting SAT scores. They have money to lose.

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  55. Korean,
    You probably want to wrap this thread up, but I just want to add one more thing: You will get no argument from me when you say that instruction in math and science is insufficient in American schools. I'm no expert, but I think part of this problem can be attributed to the fact that American math and science courses (especially at the higher levels) actually try to cram too many concepts down the students' throats at once. You probably noticed that your math textbooks in Korea were much thinner than the ones American students get. Korean students also start learning advanced math concepts at a much earlier age than their American counterparts. (Thus, concepts can be dealt with in much greater detail.)

    This is possible because most Korean students have a solid background in basic math skills from elementary school. This isn't the case for a lot of American students. When I was in school, I'd pretty much memorized my multiplication tables by the end of second grade. My school's curriculum didn't get around to teaching multiplication until fourth grade, however. As you can imagine, I didn't learn much new math in third and fourth grades. Thus, by the time I got to high school, I was probably two to three grade levels behind the typical Korean student in math.

    What's interesting about this is that I don't think elementary school in Korea is really that much more "rigorous" than elementary school in America- at least from my experience. The hagwon rat race really begins around fourth and fifth grade and continues through middle and high school. Arguably, though, the seeds for the performance gap between Korean and American students are planted before then.

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  56. The Korean,

    There are NUMEROUS studies that confirm the fact that taking SAT is not necessary. High School grades predict exactly the same thing AND they cost nothing. Here is only one of the articles, but I am including it because it has lots of references and the independent sources are mentioned.
    http://my.daemen.edu/academics/education/faculty/bshields/Weber_paper.pdf
    Now the SAT regular Fee is $49. If EVERY HIGH SCHOOL student has to take it, how much money do you think the company is making? Who do you think makes all this profit? The sources that you have mentioned are CLOSELY TIED to those who are getting the money, which another commenter, ceed pointed out to you. TK, you cannot just google things up to prove your point. Some in-depth research is necessary. Please read STEPHEN KRASHEN, PLEASE!

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  57. My last comment (and I promise this time) - here is a video of Dr.Krashen's commencement address. His speech does not start till 34:34 so SKIP TO his speech unless you want to listen to some loud music. If you do not want to watch the video, just read the full script that follows. His speech addresses PISA scores for USA and Finland, SATs, standardized testing, poverty, etc. 1. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/06/20/986913/-Stephen-Krashen-could-eat-Arne-Duncan-for-breakfast
    2. his full speech WITH SOURCES IN APA FORMAT. http://www.substancenews.net/articles.php?page=2319&section=Article
    Thanks for reading.

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  58. @vb
    "EVEN THE BEST STANDARDIZED TESTS OUT THERE DO NO and I repeat DO NOT MEASURE STUDENT'S LEARNING."
    So is there a test that measures learning? In your opinion are we wasting our time with standardized tests?

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  59. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  60. There are all kinds of metrics people are judged against that have measurements that vary from what they actually should be doing. The point of metrics is to give them something to work against. The only thing worse than a poor standard of measurement may be no standard of measurement.

    Sure GPA may work well, but it may fail in individual cases. SAT may work ok, but may also fail. But I would be more confident in a double positive, and for that matter a double negative, than a single positive and single negative. If you have to try to make a judgment on an individual you don't really know you may want to use this, that, and what ever else you can get. Cutting out redundancy can work, but even if something can work you may not do it. Plus if your going to end up working with someone else's money, they are going to want to see sort of proof, other than a hearing, "don't worry about it, you can trust me."

    Sure S Korea may do better on tests. It may be in one part because they are doing better in that aspect of education. On the other part, it may be because they care more. If your the US you have the privilege of having the top schools and can attract top students.

    Now you take a place that was just recently the backwater, plus with a culture that emphasizes education, and give them some resources. It may not be surprising they may be putting it into education. Granted they are making mistakes with it, but mistakes can be corrected.

    There may be other factors that make S Korea focus on education a case of diminishing returns. The standardize test may not be able to factor in other intangibles, besides a lot of education is useless unless you you can apply and integrate it to for some purpose.

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  61. The Korean, I just discovered your blog because of the BBC news on Korean suicide rates. Reading this discussion has been very interesting since I am a Korean Canadian.

    I see much argument about Western education versus Korean education system but in truth, no education system is perfect. For those who are criticizing Korean school systems you should watch the documentary "Waiting for Superman". In the documentary Bill Gates speaks out about the school system, and how in the future several positions within the technological industry will have to be outsourced due to lack of qualified applicants within the country.

    I have met students who have graduated high school in Korea and attending Post Secondary in Canada and the United States. They do share some common traits and it is true that tend to memorize information than to understand them. However, their excellent study habits and dedication is the main reason they are at the top of their class. From my experience, it doesn't matter how you learn, if you have the passion, a group of creative and logical students tend to do the best on projects.

    My belief in this topic is that both western and eastern education system can learn something from each other. But most importantly, providing an environment for a student to learn should be the main focus of the government. What is the literacy rate of the country with the so called "better education system" ?

    ReplyDelete

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