Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Questions from Jangheung High School! (Part 2)

Continuing from yesterday's post, here is the second question from the high school students at Jangheung High School in Jeollanam-do.

Question from Han-jin (한진):  What is different between Korean high school and USA high school education? [한국 고등학교와 미국 고등학교 사이 교육의 차이점에 대해 어떻게 생각하십니까?]

The Korean must first note that the question in English and the question in Korean are slightly different, since the question in Korean asks: "what do you think about the difference between Korean high school and USA high school education?" The Korean will go by the English version of the question. Because the Korean is planning to write a huge series on Korea's education, he will limit himself to short and broad-brush observations, in bullet point forms. (I know, I know -- I have been promising this series for a very long time. But researching and writing takes a lot of time, and I only have so much time in a day.)
  • At the top level, Korean high school students and American high school students both work very hard. There is a common misconception in Korea that in America, high school students freely roam the world. As far as upper level of American high school students are concerned, that is simply not true. Top American high school students think about attending college just as much as Korean high school students, and they also attend a great deal of private academies.

    공부 잘하는 미국 고등학생은 공부 잘하는 한국 고등학생만큼 열심히 합니다. 미국에서 고등학생들은 그냥 세상을 배회하며 논다는 식의 오해가 한국에 많은데요, 공부 잘하는 학생들 레벨에서는 그건 정말 아닙니다. 공부 잘하는 미국 고등학생들은 한국 고등학생들만큼이나 입시 스트레스도 받고, 학원도 무지 많이 다닙니다.

    But among average students, there is a big difference. Simply put, they do not try very hard at school. They may think they are trying hard, but they certainly do not try as hard as average Korean high school students try.

    하지만 보통 고등학생 사이에서는 큰 차이가 나는데요, 쉽게 말해서 보통 미국 고등학생들은 그다지 열심히 공부를 하지 않습니다. 자기 딴에는 열심히 한다고 생각하지만, 보통 한국 고등학생 공부하는 것에 비하면 아무것도 아니죠.

  • In Korea, the grade for the semester is entirely determined by two exams: mid term and final exams. In the U.S., each and every homework assignment counts toward the final grade. Mid terms and final exams exist in American high schools, but in many cases homework assignments collectively can count up to 50% of the final grade more. The Korean thinks this is a good idea.

    한국 고등학교에서는 중간고사, 기말고사 시험 두 개로 학기 성적이 나오지만, 미국 고등학교에서는 숙제 하나하나가 최종 성적에 반영됩니다. 미국 고등학교에도 중간고사 기말고사는 존재하지만, 숙제 점수를 다하면 학기 최종 성적의 반 혹은 그 이상으로 반영될 수도 있습니다. 좋은 제도라고 생각합니다.

  • In a Korean high school, students stay in a single classroom and teachers come, for the most part. In an American high school, teachers stay in a single classroom and the students move. Because of that, "classmates" mean a lot less than it does in Korea.

    한국 고등학교에서는 대개 학생들은 교실에 머물고 선생님들이 교실로 오시지만, 미국 고등학교에서는 대개 선생님들이 교실에 계시고 학생들이 옵니다. 그래서 "반 친구"라는 말은 미국에서는 그다지 의미가 없습니다.

  • American high schools have a lot more electives than Korean high schools, and American high school students end up taking fewer subjects than Korean high school students. Korean high school students take around 13-15 subjects in a semester. But American high school students only take around 6-7 subjects in a semester because American high school students select only a few classes to take all semester long. (To be sure, some classes like English and Math are mandatory.) This means that, for American high school students, each period is the same subject every day of the week for the whole semester. In contrast, Korean high school students have a different schedule every day of the week, in order to accommodate all of the subjects.

    미국 고등학교는 한국 고등학교보다 선택 과목이 훨씬 많고, 미국 고등학생들은 한국 고등학생들보다 과목들을 더 적게 듣습니다. 한국 고등학생들은 한 학기에 대개 13-15개의 과목을 듣는 반면에, 미국 고등학생들은 한 학기에 6-7개의 과목만을 듣습니다. 이는 미국 고등학생들은 선택과목 몇 개만 골라서 그것만 들을 수 있기 때문입니다. (물론 영어나 수학같은 과목은 필수 과목입니다.) 그렇기 때문에 미국 고등학생들은 일주일 내내 매일 시간표가 똑같습니다. 반면에 한국 고등학생들은 많은 과목들을 다 들어야하기 때문에, 시간표가 매일 바뀌죠.

  • Also, what might be considered an extracurricular activity in Korean high school is actually a class in American high school. The Korean was in the school newspaper team both in his Korean high school and in his American high school. In Korea, the newspaper club met after school; in America, it was a class in the third period.

    또 한국에서는 특별활동일 것들이 미국 고등학교에서는 정규 수업인 경우가 많습니다. 저같은 경우에는 한국 그리고 미국에서 둘다 신문부에 있었는데요, 한국에서 신문부는 방과 후에 따로 만났지만 미국에서 신문부는 3교시에 듣는 정규 수업이었죠.
There are many more differences, but we will stop here for now.

차이점들은 이것말고도 훨씬 많지만, 이정도에서 그만하겠습니다.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. In Korea, if the students stay and the teachers move, how do the schools conduct science labs? Is every classroom equipped with benches and Bunsen burners, or do only certain students ever take such classes?

  2. Also, I would have been driven batty if I had to deal with the same classmates all day long. Many of my classmates, on the other hand, would not have minded.

    Other than these two points, the "teacher moves" model does make more sense. My school, while having some excellent teachers, was built for 1500 students but actually housed 2000. The halls were swamped at passing times, and the only way to get from the top floor to the bottom floor (5 floor difference) in the allotted 4 minutes involved crazy power-walking and weaving while hoping you didn't accidentally whack some kid with your enormous backpack (since, of course, you never had time to visit your locker). Good times.

  3. Wow, the school newspaper was an after school thing way back when I was in high school (mid-70s, New Jersey).

    Regarding teachers moving from cleassroom to classroom, what about lab classes?

  4. @Wanda: The schools in Korea (at least the ones I've taught at) have science labs, so when they need to do experiments they use those rooms; otherwise they use their homeroom class. There is also a designated English room which may or may not be used (depending on schedule conflicts)

  5. In Korea, if the students stay and the teachers move, how do the schools conduct science labs?

    Lab is one of the cases where both the students and the teacher go to a separate classroom.

    I would have been driven batty if I had to deal with the same classmates all day long.

    I find that it does a better job at teaching group dynamics and forging lasting friendships.

  6. I do think there is some merit to regularly being in contact with the same classmates throughout much of the day and I have to say, despite the fact that during my US high school days, I continually moved from classroom to classroom, due to the tracking system, I was largely with the same 30 or so honors students in most of my core classes (English, history, math, science), at least until I outgrew my high school's offered classes and started attending early college programs. So, I actually did bond fairly well with those classmates, since, aside from a couple electives, I saw them all day long, just in different classrooms with different teachers. I also have to say that I think I gained a lot from those elective classes (or some mandatory classes like health class) which caused me to interact with a different segment of school, giving me greater interaction with students from more diverse backgrounds who were even more different from me than my honors track peers--so I also think there's merit to mixing it up. Interestingly, my closest friends from high school, with whom I am quite close today, I shared little to no classes with, but formed through shared interests in after school clubs.

  7. It all makes sense now. I had observed that a lot of Korean people I meet are still quite close with their high school, middle school and often even elementary school friends. For me personally, I think my closest friends are the ones who I met through college where we came together because of shared interests, activities, etc.

  8. korean students have to move classes in certain subjects. like science korean students have to move to science labs


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