Sunday, October 24, 2010

The American Envy of the Korean Education System (Part 3): Can America Catch Up to Korea? Also, No.

The American Envy of the Korean Education System (Part 3): Can America Catch Up to Korea?  Again the answer is no.

Here are links to the previous posts in this series, which is going to the basis for a book I am writing about educating Korean children, and the efforts to send Korean children to English-speaking countries for high school and university.
(Part 1):
(Part 2):

It is the open question then, on whether or not the American education system can "catch up" to the Korean education system through the high school.  In one short word, the answer is no.  In addition to the difference in attitude of students with respect to mathematics, the difference can be seen in attitudes at home. 

Now, the examples I am taking here are from Gangnam, where the premium placed on education is the highest in Korea, so the examples are going to be extreme.  A student from elementary school attends how many different hagwons (study centers)?  5?  That is entirely possible.  Let's take a family with 1 child, and let's assume that each hagwon costs approximately 200,000 KRW (About 180 USD) a month.  A Korean student attends these hagwons 11 months a year.  That means 11 x 200,000 = 2,200,000 a year.  That is 2,000 USD a year per hagwon, and each student takes 5 = 2,000 x 5 = 10,000 USD for each child, in addition to normal school expenses.  Is there any chance that American students use USD 10,000 a year for private study centers?  No.  For students that are attempting to excel in Korea, the amount of money for hagwons make the savings rate for an upper middle-class family in  Every last KRW is spent on hagwons.  That is for employees of Korean corporations that make somewhere around USD 75,000 a year.  This is an inconceivable concept to an American.  Absolutely inconceivable.  Yet, for all Korean readers of this post, I am quite certain that you personally know someone that experiences this.  To my fellow Koreans, please know this:  the Americans that do not know Korea are shaking their heads in disbelief right now.

Let's talk about the time spent at hagwons.  For high school students, studying ends in the evening, and many students return home at 10-11 PM everyday.  Maybe a secondary student doesn't go on Saturday evening.  However, Sunday is certainly a study day.  For American students, except those at the very top prep schools, this study habit does not exist.  Perhaps someone from America would say that Korean students are studying inefficiently.  Perhaps that is true.  Nevertheless, even at 50% efficiency, is there any doubt that a Korean student spends more time studying, and a Korean family uses far more of their monthly resources to further a child's education?  There is, of course, one huge mitigating factor.  A Korean student dedicates a great deal of time, effort, and money to the goal of learning English, and an American student obviously does not use this amount of time to study a foreign language.

Nevertheless, the gap between the US and Korea cannot be closed without not only changes to the official education system, but more importantly, the amount of resources that the average American family dedicates to a child's education.  Is there any hope of that?  No.  Only at university does the "playing field" become more level. 

Why has this occurred?  That is the topic of Part 4 of The American Envy of the Korean Education System.

Comments welcome.  I am sure that not everyone agrees with this series.  Let's discuss it here.  Thanks.


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