Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ask a Korean! News: Comparative High School Student Behavior

Absolutely fascinating article on Dong-A Ilbo, which is relaying a report from Yomiuri Shimbun of Japan:
Comparing the Studying Habits of Korea, China, Japan and the U.S.

          Korea              Japan           United States          China

"Korean students doze, Japanese students space out, American students eat or chat..."

According to the research by Japan's Education Research Center under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) regarding in-school behaviors of Korea, Japan, the United States and China, this was the trend for each country, reported Yomiuri Shimbun on the 8th. This research was conducted with 6,200 high school students in four countries from summer through autumn of last year.

According to the research, 32.3 percent of Korean students selected "dozing off" as the "something I do all the time" or "something I do often", ranking second following Japanese students (45.1 percent). In contrast, American students and Chinese students picked the option at 20.8 percent and 4.7 percent respectively. Also, the ratio of Korean students who said "I take good notes during class" was 68.1 percent, lower than their counterparts in Japan (93.1 percent), China (90.1 percent) and America (89.1 percent). 16.3 percent of Korean students chose "I actively participate during class," much lower than the U.S. (51 percent) or China (46.2 percent).

On the other hand, 45.8 percent of Japanese students chose "I space out during class," ranking high alongside American students (59.4 percent). American students selected "I chat with friends during class" or "I snack during class" at the rate of 64.2 percent and 46.9 percent respectively, ranking the top among the four countries. America also ranked the highest in "I send emails or read a book that does not have to do with the class", with 38.9 percent of the students choosing it.

Meanwhile, Chinese students showed a contrast with Korean/American/Japanese students, participating actively and generally behaving well during class.

韓-日-美-中 고교생 수업태도 비교해 보니… (Dong-A Ilbo)

The article also attached the full chart:

The table is titled: "What do you during class?" The unit is percent, and responding students picked multiple choices.

The columns from the left are:  Korea, Japan, United States, China
The rows from the top are:
- I take good notes
- I doze off
- I chat with friends
- I snack
- I send emails or read other books
- I space out
- I actively participate in class

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


  1. snacking during class. Yech. I had a classmate in University who'd bring a boiled egg wrapped in (noisy) tinfoil to class, crack it and eat it during lectures. It was a class of about 11 students, so it distracted everyone and really choked up the prof.

    Sometimes I want to teach everyone I know about Nunchi.

  2. I'd be curious to see how these surveys were translated into the different languages. Acceptable classroom behavior norms would have a big influence on how students answered the questions.

  3. And then there are Finnish students who spend the least amount of time in the classroom yet have the highest test scores in the world.

  4. @ Alex: the link doesn't work.

  5. Blogger seems to cut it off.

    BBC News

  6. - I take good notes FOR THE TEST, nothing else
    - I chat with friends NEVER, again the stick!
    - I snack IN KOREA, snacking is usally seen as selfish unless you share it (something left over from the war, maybe), and then other students would get mad, so they dont usually eat during class
    - I send emails or read other books THE STICK! no cells in class or books.
    - I space out COMMON
    - I actively participate in class, not in this generation. Teacher speaks you say YES, I gave up ages ago trying to get a rise out of them, just repeat and listen. And threaten them with tests made by their Korean teachers and you. Works the charm.

    btw want to get a rise out of them, tell them about schools in the west: girls, no night study. easier tests, all the good things. but smile when you do it.
    hehe I love my students..

  7. And then at the way other end of the spectrum we have European public/state high schools. One of my friends who went to high school in early-mid 2000's Bucharest said that sometimes kids smoke cigarettes in the back of the classroom (classrooms generally seat 40-50, and they are relatively narrow and long...but still!) during class. And then another friend of the same age said that in Rome they used to smoke joints right beside one of the school building's main entrances, and the teachers would watch them and maybe yell at them a little, but ultimately not really do anything.

  8. I wonder what the full text of the survey questions were. I can see a lot of room for interpretation. I can also imagine the differences culturally in self-perception. I read a survey once that said US students were the WEAKEST yet felt the BEST about themselves. Then there's the self-deprecating Koreans. etc. etc.

  9. I question the validity of this study. What is the definition of "good notes"? What parameter is it based on? I can't see these students, who are evaluating the own quality notes, be objective and non-bias evaluator of their own note-talking skills.

  10. Melody,

    The use of the word "good" is more natural and makes more sense in the original Korean but seems forced when translated to English. In fact, I think "good" in this context has nothing to do with the quality of one's notes, but the mere fact that notes are being taken. I believe TK included the word explicitly because it is used in the original Korean, but simply "I take notes during class" might be a better translation.

  11. We were actually advised during our orientation that if kids were sleeping in the class, that they probably needed the sleep and to let them doze.

    Kids sleep in my classes all the time, especially after lunch and toward the end of the week. I've found interesting ways to rouse them, but for the most part I leave it to my co-teachers.

    Sleeping in class (middle school, noetheless!) is way more common here than it is back in the states, and this survey reflects that well.

  12. Well, according to below NYTimes blog article, less sleep = less depression. So maybe the problem ought to be addressed.

  13. In HS in the US, I totally ate during class. (I made sure it wasn't something that would make a mess, though.) I abhorred the lunchroom and would spend lunchtime in the library, where food was not allowed. However, I did not chat, read books, or (for the most part) space out during class, and I did take notes.
    There is large variation from class to class in the US. I volunteered in one 7th grade classroom where I could split the room into groups of 13, and each group self-organized and correctly executed a moderately complex task while staying on task the whole time and without squabbling over resources groups had to share, all without teacher guidance. I also volunteered in a HS classroom where no one paid attention and one girl told me that she was on her cellphone talking to her father. These two schools were a block away from each other.


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