A new oped in the Sunday edition of the New York Times is buzzing on social media. The topic? The myth of the great education in Korea.
“The world may look to South Korea as a model for education — its students rank among the best on international education tests — but the system’s dark side casts a long shadow. Dominated by Tiger Moms, cram schools and highly authoritarian teachers, South Korean education produces ranks of overachieving students who pay a stiff price in health and happiness. The entire program amounts to child abuse. It should be reformed and restructured without delay.”
The author, Se-Woong Koo admits that the educational system has it strengths, even the competition element can be a motivator, but it has gone very extreme since the nineties:
“…a system driven by overzealous parents and a leviathan private industry is unsustainable over the long run, especially given the physical and psychological costs that students are forced to bear.
Many young South Koreans suffer physical symptoms of academic stress, like my brother did. In a typical case, one friend reported losing clumps of hair as she focused on her studies in high school; her hair regrew only when she entered college.”
Well, people who have been following this blog shouldn’t be too surprised.
This research by Jaesung Choi even explains that Korea without the private tutoring industry wouldn’t be better than the US or the UK:
This paper studies the effect of private tutoring on academic achievement and educational inequality in Korea. Korea has the largest system of private tutoring in the world, and maintains an outstanding performance on international academic tests, such as the PISA. Korea’s school system is characterized by limited school choice and low variation in quality and curricula across schools, which provides incentives for households to employ private tutoring as an additional educational investment. Prompted by concerns about unequal access to private tutoring and resulting educational inequality, the government has enacted various forms of regulation in the tutoring market. This paper seeks to quantify the effect of private tutoring on academic outcomes and to evaluate the impacts of a range of government policies. It develops and estimates a dynamic discrete choice model of private tutoring and self-study decisions using panel data from the 2005-2011 waves of the Korean Education Longitudinal Study. The data follow 7th graders annually until one year after their high school graduation and contain detailed information on private tutoring use and test scores. Simulations based on the estimated model show that prohibiting private tutoring reduces the achievement gap between higher and lower income households by 57 percent, but at the cost of decreasing average test scores by 0.47 standard deviations. Providing a 50 percent price subsidy for private tutoring to low income households increases average test scores for all students by 0.18 standard deviations and narrows the income achievement gap by 47 percent at the cost of increased government spending. A voucher system funded by tax on private tutoring narrows the income achievement gap by 31 percent, but at the cost of decreasing average test scores by 0.07 standard deviations.
And do check this documentary on that other high scoring place, Hong Kong, by Marcel Theroux on the Hong Kong Tiger Tutors.
- Interesting read: professor says Korea has to move on to the next stage (and Obama is wrong about Korean education)
- 2.5 views on “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way”
- Comparing countries, another PISA-discussion