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Differences Between North American and Korean Students

October 21, 2011

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This week’s TL;DR is on a topic we often talk about with each other and is a little bit more serious than most of our TL;DRs. The question we were asked this week is about the differences between Korean students and student life, and North American students.

A while ago we remember reading that Obama praised the South Korean school system by saying that

“Our children – listen to this – our children spend over a month less in school than children in South Korea every year,” Obama told a gathering at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce here. “That’s no way to prepare them for a 21st-century economy.”

It’s clear to anyone who has experienced both the North American and South Korean school system that there are huge differences between the two, and while Obama may say that the South Korean system might give South Korean students a competitive advantage, we find that the South Korean system has some serious disadvantages, as well as some serious advantages, that don’t make it a clear cut winner over the North American system.

Flat out, we can say that the South Korean education system is definitely more competitive. There’s a sense of urgency in the South Korean education system. Students start studying from a very young age for their University Entrance Exams, which are a super huge deal in determining the rest of their lives. That kind of importance of education isn’t really prevalent in the North American system. You can get into a good university with mediocre grades (Simon’s a perfect example of this), and if you don’t get straight A’s on everything, it’s not the end of the world. Here in South Korea, though, getting perfect grades is a must if you want to succeed.

Even those students that don’t care about studying hard will still go through the motions with the other students. A student picking fights, doing drugs, skipping class and so on is just about unheard of here in Korea. Now of course, you can find example of a naughty Korean student, but they are so few and far between compared to what we’re used to back home. From our experiences as teachers in Canada, we had difficult students in every class, while as teachers in Korea, we barely had any difficult students. Our co-teachers would complain about some difficult students, but their complaints are about disinterested or tired students, rather than violent or rude students.

So what is the difference between Korean students and North American students to create this giant huge behaviour gap? Well, we have various theories (including how Korean parents take a super active role in their daughter/son’s school marks) and one of them has to do with differences in the concept of individualization. North America is all about finding yourself, speaking up, thinking out of the box, debating, and essay writing, while Korea is all about fitting in, listening to your teacher’s lecture, knowing the one right answer, and succeeding on multiple choice tests. Being able to form creative answers based off a student’s ability to synthesize material is important in North America, while in South Korea it’s almost unheard of.

So they point of our ramble here is that Korean students end up becoming very focused on studying and they consider it a full time job, while North American students are lots of other things apart from students. They hold part-time jobs, they date, they go out with friends, they play on the basketball team, and oh yeah, they do their homework. Korean students don’t do as much as North American students do, because they go to school almost the whole day. They study a LOT more than North American students. A LOT MORE. Sure, South Korean students hang out with their friends, but not to the extent that North American kids do. There aren’t house parties here where people awkwardly socialize and mingle and mate. There are gatherings at the PC room with some of their friends.

Anyhow, we really have a lot of things to say about this, and we can ramble on with examples of differences forever, but the bottom line is that even though Korean students are must better behaved than North American students, we still don’t think either system is perfect. Korean students work way to hard. You teenage year is the time to make mistakes and to grow up and discover yourself, but how can you do that if you spend all your time walking around in a daze because you just study ALL DAY? Plus, you don’t really study as much as memorize, which we think is not as good as say, struggling to write a thought provoking essay. So which system is better? We don’t know, but we wish could take a little bit of each and mix it to create this awesome middle system.

Wow, we said a lot…we definitely need to hear your opinions and experiences on the subject. Let us know!

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Differences Between North American and Korean Students

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  1. I feel that my school in America is challenging yet still allows us to have a life outside of school. Its an IB school (most people dont know what that is but w/e), so it does not run by the normal American education system, but it is a charter school so its public. My teachers expect us to memorize and be able to critically think (and think for ourselves) and while I understand that school is very important and students at my school do spend the majority of their time studying (although my grades dont really show it) life outside of school is important too. Everyday I have at least 1 club meeting to go to for a different club everyday of the week and this kind of activity is expected of everyone, but it causes a lot of stress so a lot of kids turn to drugs and drinking. but even those kids are still for the most part excited to learn and enthusiastic about both school and other things going on in their life. I dont know if I would be able to survive in a korean school. it sounds so oppressive i feel like i would go crazy,

    5 years ago
  2. In North America, yeah there is more freedom and more socialization, but it’s not true that all teachers or parents don’t push their kids academically. Take for example my friend Kim, her mother came from El Salvador and because of her mom’s inexperience with education pushed Kim hard in school. Kim was 1 of our 2 valedictorians because of her mother pushing her. Me? I spent most of my time at home reading and doing homework instead of going out. Not all North American students go out and do destructive things, but a majority do.

    5 years ago
    • I think parents who grew up very ‘uneducated’ and poor have a lot to do with pushing their children to success in North America! I know mine did. 

      5 years ago
  3. I think I have to agree a lot with what was said.

    I grew up going to schools in America, but now I have a lot of Korean friends and have been studying the culture and such, so I see a little bit of that side too. I can’t speak much for other places, but in the US, our public education system is horrid. There are lots of drugs, alcohol abuse, sex, teen pregnancies, and violence. Respect and discipline aren’t taught, so students are rude and disrespectful not only to each other, but teachers as well. There is also a lot placed in area code. If you live in the city or a less wealthy area of a suburb or the country, your education quality is lower. I went to one of the nicer high schools in my area, but it was in a less wealthy county and we suffered from so many budget and staff cuts in my four years there it was sick. 
    On the other side, one of my friends just moved to the States for uni and he hates the Korean system as much as I hate the American one. Like you guys said, they go to school for the larger part of the day and then to hagwon. The stress is killer and it’s still widely accepted to beat kids in schools. He says a lot of kids start drinking and smoking as a stress reliever in high school, and it’s something that carries over into their adult life (which is why a lot of Koreans drink and smoke so much in their later years). Another student I used to know was studying here as a middle school exchange student and planned on applying to exchange programs every year until uni so he wouldn’t have to back to the Korean school system.

    This is actually something I’ve discussed a lot with friends. There are so many flaws in both systems that neither do well at stimulating a real interest in learning. There are good things about both, too, most of which were listened in the video, but in this way, I feel maybe the good outweighs the bad. Also, as a side note, I’m really curious if anyone here is Finnish, because I’ve heard a lot of great things about the Finnish lower school systems and would sorta like to hear about it first hand ^.^

    5 years ago
  4. Bottom line…I would die in South Korea because I couldn’t study if my life depended on it, lol. I don’t know why…I just can’t focus on stuff I don’t care about i.e. history…math…reading and writing…you know, the boring stuff.

    5 years ago
  5. Hi, 
     Im from Mongolia but was raised in Germany and went to school in both of the countries. Right now im in the senior year of high school in Mongolia and the difference in the education system is huge. Like in Germany school focused more on language and natural sciences and u have more freedom, going out with friends and stuff. But here in Mongolia its so diffrent kids of families which live in a poorer enviroment have the chance of good education but they dont grab it they skip school and drink (vodka) smok, but kids of my school (privat high school) or children which come from better families they take studying going to school seriously. For example my day beginns at 6 o’clock go to school than study group at 5 outside school activities and i come home at 7 cooking & housework than homework, thats a normal day for many asian kids. 
    German teenagers mostly think about love and stuff but in asia we are more concernt of our future and career. 
    P.S. I love u guys and ur show <3

    5 years ago
  6. I’ve heard college is much easier than high school in Korea… but that’s not saying a whole lot since high school is incredibly hard. I’ve heard rumors that our universities are better though? Our best schools anyway… that’s why you see Korean kids working so hard then coming to the U.S. to our Ivy League schools…

    5 years ago
  7. Memorization is really a problem overall as it’s taking over in the US too. Unfortnately it’s the ultimate way to “show” so-called results to parents and the admin. It’s also an easier way when dealing with about thirty students. I couldn’t wait for college as I was sick and tired of the constant busy work we were given, even in advanced classes. There was very little hands on work or any chance of real discussion and even if there was the discussions had to be cut short because they had to get through what’s required for us to know that day. 50 minutes with a large class isn’t really enough time. I know for my high school the constant busy work caused a lack of respect as we viewed it as wasted time, which is what it was. It wasn’t reinforcing anything and we weren’t learning anything new. It was only to fill the last twenty minutes of class. I really think having smaller teacher:student ratios could really help out on this as it allows for more individualized attention and a chance to go beyond the textbook and worksheets. Even if there will be teachers that are still worksheetholics.

    5 years ago
  8. So, I’ve read through all the comments and I’m kind of shocked by what some people are saying, that high school here in North America is nothing, but college is super intense. My high school was pretty tough, with a lot of focus on college prep and for tests like the SAT and ACT. I was super prepared for college, like over prepared. My work load was a lot harder in high school when it came to core classes, i.e. math and English. Thats basically what all of my friends from high school say. I graduated from a private, all girl, Catholic high school though, so I don’t know what the public school systems are like. 

    (And I specified core classes because I’m studying design at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (aka DAAP). Its widely known that if you are in DAAP, all nighters tend to be your best friend for the 4/5 years you’re there. So any class specifically related to your major usually has a high work load. I can’t really say for people with other majors though, most of my friends don’t tend to complain about the work.)

    5 years ago
  9. I’m in the US and this is the first year I’m dealing with our public schools. I have a 6 year old foster daughter in first grade.Here’s a few gems from her school: 1)For math homework she had to count the thermometers in our house and draw her favorite one. (According to my friend who teaches middle school, the curriculum emphasizes math in the real world,.The kids have trouble doing basic math facts, but hey, they know math is all around them!) 2) there are no spelling test. they will teach them to spell by modeling good spelling behaviors in the classroom. Oh wait, we also like to use creative spelling…they will “transition to proper spelling as they learn english better.”  Looking at our nation of txt spking teens somehow I doubt it. 3) Phonics inhibits kids and causes regression. It’s better to look at the pictures and guess until you get the right word.  I’m not a hard core phonics only girl, but I’ve been I reading tutor for kids who had trouble reading and I can tell you the ones who knew some phonics were better equipped to figure out words and problem solve. 

    I agree with Simon and Martina, a balance between  the two systems would be good. Right now I think the US is going to continue to fall compared to the rest of the 1st world countries.  We want to be high ranked, but we want to get there without having  our kids do the work necessary.  Hey, maybe if we try the latest “new” thing our students will magically think that learning is fun and outscore everyone else..or not. 

    5 years ago
    • From what I’ve observed and gathered in roughly 8 years in and out of classrooms in all subjects (I work as a substitute, though I’ve been certified since 2005, and already had to renew it), I’ve concluded that lower levels really need to concentrate on memorization, especially in mathematics. Without memorizing arithmetic facts, the higher levels of math become much more difficult. With reading, phonics is absolutely necessary for alphabetic scripts because the marks generally stand for phonemes. (English is horrible in this regard, though, unlike Spanish where the sound system very neatly lines up with the written language; there are really too many exceptions and variations in English.) The pure whole-language approach really only works with logographic systems like Chinese where you really DO have to recognize the word, as it’s basically one or two characters. I’m reminded of Bloom’s Taxonomy, wherein you have to start with basic Knowledge, then develop Comprehension before you try Application, and then you can go to the higher-order skills of Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation. The higher-order thinking skills are not possible without the lower-order skills having been addressed in a given area.

      5 years ago
  10. This is why I never talk about school.

    5 years ago
  11. My theory on this matter is that it has a lot to do with the fundamental cultural differences in Western and Eastern views on parent-child relationship, the Asian superiority complex, and the fact that Chinese characters are un-phonetic hieroglyphs that’s damn hard to learn. What do I mean? Let’s start off with the Chinese characters.

    Historically, Chinese was the language of knowledge since the beginning of times in Asia. But since it’s quite time-consuming and difficult to master Chinese characters, the ability to read and write was really only reserved to nobility, because they could afford to teach that to their children. It’s no wonder that such ability would be envied by the masses, and since the ability to read and write Chinese characters was really fundamental in learning pretty much everything, the illiterate masses couldn’t really study anything. This ultimately made the very act of studying highly desirable and even elevated it to some sort of romantic ideal. I mean consider the importance of Confucianism in Asia, and how do you learn the teachings of Confucius? You have to be able to read!

    In modern times, the barrier to all sorts of knowledge and learning have all but disappeared, but that attitude toward studying didn’t, and led to an environment where those that excel in studying (i.e. those that great grades) are very much respected, and those that don’t are sneered at. Combine that with the tighter parent-child relationship in Korea (and other parts of Asia as well) where parents generally get to exert more control on their children, add in a bit of the Asian superiority complex (Asians seek ways to show off because they live in a homogenous society where individuality is not appreciated), you get this hyper competitive environment where kids have to live and die by their grades.

    As a side note, I believe that Confucianism is largely to blame for the
    Korean (and probably other Asian as well) education system where
    critical thinking is not really encouraged. In the old days, the entire
    field of studying is focused on reading, understanding, and memorizing
    words and teachings of philosophers and scholars of antiquity. (If you
    have to value the words of people older than you, obviously the words of
    people who lived thousands of years old would be far more important.)
    Studies of more practical matter like science was mostly seen as
    somewhat lowly endeavor. Even arguments between elite scholars,
    politicians, and court officials often consisted of reciting phrases
    from old books that support their opinions. Education that value critical thinking over memorization would be a radical departure from those old days, and naturally, Korean education system still tend to focus more on memorization of facts.

    5 years ago
  12. Here in Brazil education is more about memorizing, different from education in North America, but kids aren’t interested in learning also :/  I don’t blame them too much… Parents are guilty for this, right?
    But I don’t think the korean system is healthy, the social thing is so important and is suppressed. I have talked to a 23 y.o. korean boy, and he miss the social thing about school (I haven’t talked to many korean about this, but I think they think the same or something like this)
    So I agree with you, it’s a matter of mixing both cultures…
    But I think this korean generation is opening a bit their own minds, I think that to the next generations we’ll see some changes in the korean society (in a better way). Well, I hope that, for the sake of young koreans’ health (mind and body).

    5 years ago
  13. I remember when my mom told me stories of when she was in school in Korea.. she said that there are sooo much pressure that many students will actually commit suicide.. scary…. but I love the idea that education is absolutely a priority to korean students, as for here in america…. eh, like you guys said more of the artsy type of things… maybe america should be a little more in that kind of system like korea, but maybe not as extreme…hmmmmmmmmmmm just a thought =]

    5 years ago
  14. I’m Korean and I studies abroad for 3 years and I realized that Korean system of studying is the WORST system ever. ppl from somewhere did a survey of my age (16in K age) and nearly 70~80% thought of suiciding..  I live in DoGok-Dong in Gangnam,Seoul where students study the MOST and where all the smart students come. They sleep at 2~3am and get up at 7 to go to school. The weirdest thing is that kindergarten in our town, they teach English at 3years old in K age!!! Thats 1~2yrs in American age. Can you believe that? And 5 above, they go to cram schools..

    STUDENTS DON”T HAVE LIFE IN KOREA

    The moment they turn 17 (start of high-school) they become ZOMBIES of Study…
    They study 22/7… REALLY I’M NOT JOKING.

    Students goal of living is going to more elite university – going in to elite company – earning A LOT of money. THE END…
    When I asked top students at our school, (our school is the best school in Korea so if they are top in our school, it means they are top in K) they ALL said “I’M NOT GONNA LIVE IN KOREA WHEN I GROW UP’

    and students are NOT respective anymore. They shock me… ppl are starting to change…
    I think K gov has to chage 180degrees! I DON’T WANNA BE A WORKBEE…!

    5 years ago
    • Hey! I’m a Korean-American(I was born and raised in Michigan and moved to Korea. Now, I go to an international school: Seoul International School (SIS)) and I can totally agree with you! Although we international school kids have it a bit easier than you guys(My korean school friends always tell me what happens), our schools are equally competitive. I’m in middle school and already the only thing people talk about is their GPA. It’s really weird but I end up checking it all the time. Our moms get really mad if we get a 99 on a test, but still they cool off. I know a kid who goes to 11 academies. Still, our teachers make it really fun and try to make it easy for us, and we have tons of breaks and half days(American System) so if you want to have an easier life style, you should come to an international school(K to 12) lol. Wish you luck XD.

      2 years ago
    • 강남이면 저희보다 더 힘드셨겠어요.
      전 대전에 있는 자사고 학생인데.
      아침 7:30분까지 등교에 12:00까지 의무 자습이였습니다.
      체벌도 있고요. 솔직히 체벌은 상관없는데.. 잘못 안하면 때리진 않으니깐.
      교육시스템은 잘못됬습니다.
      한국인 아니면 믿지도 않아요.
      네덜란드에서 오후 3:00까지 남게 한다고 시위 일으킨 거 보고 열불나 죽는 줄 알았습니다.
      오바마 대통령은 지네 국민한테 한국 학생들을 본 받으라고 한다는데.
      말도 안되죠. 우리가 하고 싶어서 하는게 아닌데,,
      솔직히 한국에 좀 공부 한단 놈들.
      다 이민이나 유학 생각하죠.
      등록금이 같다고 치더라도
      미국이 더 기회도 많고, 경험도 더 좋죠.
      그래서 저도 한국 대학을 포기하고 외국 대학으로 집어넣으려고 합니다.
      슬픕니다. 한국인으로써 한국을 좋아하지만 버리고 아메리칸 드림을 믿고 사는 사람이란게.

      5 years ago
      • 아메리칸 드림은 있습니다. 단지, 그 과정이 아주 길고 고되서 많은 사람들이 중간에 포기하기 때문에 멀게 보이지요. 단순히 미국이 자유롭고 기회많아서 동경하는 마음으로 오는 거라면 미국 유학은 실패합니다. 정말 피나는 노력이 필요합니다. 한국인과 어울리지 않을 각오하고 미국생활에 적응하려면 엄청난 의지력이 있어야 합니다.
        생활비를 제외한 대학 등록금만해도 미국인과 비교해서 3배 차이가 납니다. 여러가지 조건이 맞아야 하고 본인의 강력한 의지가 중요합니다. 저는 미국와서 처음2년동안 한국인과 한번도 어울리지 않고 지냈습니다. 본인 의지에 달렸습니다. 힘들지요. 압니다. 하지만 불가능한건 아닙니다. 저같은 경우는 군대있을때 부모님이 교통사고로 돌아가시면서 강남에 아파트한채 남겨주신돈을 전부 유학비용으로 사용했습니다. 왠만한 4년제 다니려면 1년에 적어도 5만불정도는 들어간다고 봐야됩니다. 희망을 버리지 마세요. 아무쪼록 건투를 빕니다.

        5 years ago
      • 지금 어메리칸 드림이라는건 거의 없어진거나 마찬가지니 미국 이민취업상황을 보고 가세요… 지금 미국 유학와서 취업/이민을 못해서 다른 선진국 나라로 가는 사람들이 엄청 많은데… 역시 한국에 있으면 다 미국을 생각하는군요. 생각하는만큼 미국 그만큼 좋은나라 아닙니다.

        5 years ago
    • Thank you for your input.  We agree that the Korean school system is heavily flawed, but the North American system has a lot of flaws as well.  We’re starting to wonder if there is any ideal system of learning, somewhere between the two…

      5 years ago
  15. grammar mistake in the line “Korean students work way to hard.” It should be “too.” haha and this coming from english majors/teachers too! =p

    5 years ago
  16. I teach in an English academy (Hogwan) in S. Korea.  The students who come are often exhausted.  They all “go through the motions” as you mentioned, but “the motions” are often a lot of drilling and memorizing like you mentioned.  I think you’re quite right.  Both systems have their flaws.  One thing I wanted to mention is that from what I told these “motions” or Hogwans are more often more of a competition between parents as a sort of status symbol.  This is something that does not exist so much in North America either.

    5 years ago
  17. I have a korean friend, and she really studied hard. To the extend that she sacrifice sleep, even though, say that the test portion is not a lot. She rant more about her studies and task, even though i took harder subject than she did, and whenever I ask her out, she will not go out. It’s like she studied 24/7. I hate that system. Even though we are in hong kong, she just studied, korean style. I think koreans are all like that, no matter where they are. 

    5 years ago
  18. “..but we wish could take a little bit of each and mix it to create this awesome middle system.” I dont wanna brag but that awesome middle system = Finland.
    It’s hard to say why the school system here produces really good results even though Finnish students spend the least time in school. Of course it’s not perfect ether, but maybe both Korea and Nort America could learn someting from that.

    5 years ago
  19. interesting… i teach in Japan and the korean system seems to be really similar to the japanese one….

    now with that in mind, i really wanna know how you can get away with having pink hair as a teacher!!!! here they would have a COW!!! lol.

    5 years ago
  20. all I want say is, your theories about not emphasizing on creativity and extra curricular activities; not preparing the next generation with qualities that will actually be helpful in life like, as you guys wrote, free thinking writing or debating… Is a major, obvious and yet ignored problem in the education system in all Asian countries. Its same here in Bangladesh too… I have seen my elder brother go through it… But, from last year, our government started the system of “creativity method”- where you have to THINK to write a possible answer to the question that’s RELATED to the topic but just doesn’t ask to write the exact word to word answer as it was in the book before… That’s when I saw, closely, how horrifying an effect the previous system had on our generation’s mind… The nerds who relied on memorizing started to panic, the teachers at school and who did private tutoring after school had no idea to cope up with this problem… Now, you can’t expect someone to be extremely creative overnight whose creativity has been held back so long that they forgot about it… The result was… gladly good… I was worried whether we could survive this sudden change but I guess that’s what makes us human, we can adopt to changes…

    Lastly, I studied under the course offered by Pearson Education’s Edexcel and so, even in a tad-bit, I know what kind of life do western students live- with creativity, too much socialisation and yet learning the overall same thing as students studying under local education systems… I got fairly good grades before I applied at universities and still could get into a very pestigious private university here in my country and if I wanted, I could’ve gone abroad but I’m a home-sick person so I didn’t go…

    5 years ago
  21. Yes, I agree that both systems seem to have their flaws, which makes sense because if it were perfect, I guess people would be far more intelligent. Although I don’t think its about the intelligence, but how people can make good decisions and develop as individuals, which is why I would say that between the two, I would prefer North America.
    As a person who is very familiar with both systems (grew up in the Philippines, currently living in the US), I can see the total difference between the two and in my opinion, the reason why America is a super power , is because of their emphasis on individuality. If different people of different interests bounce off different ideas, then that can lead to something better, to something good and new, and through that, the country can grow. Although, I’m not saying that all other systems are bad, because I can’t judge a country’s well being through their education, like South Korea. I know they’re doing pretty well as a country that sticks with their traditions.

    5 years ago
  22. Definitely need some creative, out of the box thinking.  But you can’t argue with the fact that kids really,  REALLY need to learn their basics.

    5 years ago
  23. Don’t shoot me for this, but I don’t see it as a problem if it encourages better intellect…

    5 years ago
    • Simon and I were both HS teachers in Canada before we came to Korea, and when we created exams or tests we had to make questions that would challenge all forms of thinking to see if they students really “understood” or if they were just memorizing.  We had to include tests questions to test each of these categories of thought: Knowledge (multiple choice), Inquiry (fill in the blank), Communication (short answers), and Application (creative essay question).  Inside the brackets are just examples of how you can test each of those categories.  I also helped with the Korean English exam in Korea and it was literally pages and pages of multiple choice.  That means people can just guess the answer. By my third year teaching , I managed to get some fill in the blanks on the exam, but it turns out it was a single sentence straight out of the textbook that the students had to memorize word for word. GAH!!! The point is, only now are Korean teachers realizing that their students can’t think critically, so they are trying to teach debate and short answers, but until that changes, memorization does not equal better intellect to me.

      5 years ago
      • I think part of it is teacher laziness. It’s obviously far easier to grade multiple choice questions. But the bigger issue is probably that everyone (teachers, students, parents) favor certain answers that lead to absolute scores and rankings. There is no place for “there is no right answer” kind of questions when the entire life path of the children depends on their grades.

        5 years ago
    • The thing is though, the students aren’t really encouraged to think critically. Although American students lagged behind the Korean students in many subjects, when both were asked to write and think critically, the Korean students failed. (That’s not to say our system has no flaws, because it sure does.)And sometimes these kids are still studying until 1 in the morning. :( It just makes me wonder what these kids have to give up in order to get such good grades.

      5 years ago
  24. i srsly dont get whats wrong with a higher rate of plastic surgery… *mindfucked* but i thought china/japan were worse in student suicide rate…

    5 years ago
    • If you watch the trailer, though it is sort of long… you will probably understand. But if you don’t in the trailer they talk about how many parents want their children to get plastic surgery and that many of the parents don’t even call them beautiful till after they get it. And this is like middle school and high school kids. Also, in the trailer they talk about how their parents are so strict on them about getting good grades, being the best of the best. They interview students in where the kids couldn’t take it anymore and committed suicide because they were stressed about school. And this information is coming from the students in Korea who has real experience with this stuff. Basically, South Korea’s view on Beauty is very twisted. If you don’t look a certain way, then your not beautiful. I mean I myself am not talking down on South Korea because I still think it is a wonderful place and would totally love to stay there for a year myself. But this documentary is trying to tell you that, this country is not perfect. And that there isn’t enough spotlight on these problems and all they care about is studying, like how Simon and Martina were talking about in the video. Just watch the trailer!! xD

      5 years ago
  25. I think you’re right regarding this. Even though South Korean kids have better grades, they have no life- after long days at school they go to cram schools (also happens in Japan) so they can get into some of the most prestigious school (ie Seoul University). There’s also a higher suicide rate among young people who kill themselves after failing their tests. And in Japan there’s even a nickname for student who take a year off and all they do is prepare for the entrance exams-ろうりん(rourin). However in Seoul recently, they’ve been changing the rules too. Students are no longer allowed to study past 10 pm and can be punished if they are found doing so. (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2094427,00.html ) As for college here, I’ve talked to one of my best friends (she’s from Busan) and she says she really likes the system here-its more work once you get to college but you get to explore different potential careers and have more freedom. And she remembers having no life what so ever from middle school onward, but having that change when she decided to come here for college.

    5 years ago
    • I think you meant to say that Japanese students who fail their entrance exams are called ろうにん (rōnin), as in “masterless samurai”.

      5 years ago
      • It depends on the students, in order to enter a good university, they go to cram schools, or if they want to go the “easier” route, after graduating from high school, they then spend an year and become the rounin. Although it does means master less samurai, it also refers to the students who do nothing but study for the entrance exams. *source: the third book after the genki books*

        5 years ago
  26. I don’t know maybe they are like that to the public eye but behind door they may be completely different!!!  The two faces of society!!!

    5 years ago
  27. With my lax personality, I’m actually scared to try the South Korean system. haha

    5 years ago
  28. here’s a question.. Do you see any korean celeb walking around in the malls often or are they hiding o.O

    5 years ago
  29. And I’m pretty sure that they have at least one thing in common: both systems produces people that cannot READ or WRITE in their own native language -_- This isn’t good for ANY country

    5 years ago
    • huh what????
      im plenty sure there are many serious native Korean students that can read/write in Korean…

      5 years ago
  30. I think at the end of the day, I’d have to go with the North American system just because they come out with a better sense of self identity. The Korean system just causes so many problems in the area of mental health that it out-weight the better classroom performance.

    5 years ago
  31. I also think it’s a fundamental cultural difference that make the systems so different so it’d be hard to implement dramatic change in either since the systems area  reflection of the deep rooted culture. Also as someone else commented, I feel like school gets harder as you eneter college in North America but in Asia it kind of plateaus. After High School school gets a little easier and more free. 

    5 years ago
  32. i sent this to simon and martina too! i hope they see it.

    5 years ago
  33. Vic

    My mum is Viet, so the system is kind of similar.  The problem is she imposed the viet way of studying when I was stuck in the lazy Australian system… That is annoying…

    Like my friends go out often
    Mum wants me to stay at home….
    It isn’t great to be stuck in the middle..

    5 years ago
  34. I would subscribe to a Spudgy channel….
    Also I thought your guyses discussion was pretty much spot on. We need the respect in Western schools with the freedom to pursure other interests in the Eastern schools.

    5 years ago
  35. that explains why my asian parents are so freaking mad at me when i got an B on Algebra 2 lol

    5 years ago
  36. I’ve heard an interesting tidbit recently. That it is a lot easier in college than high school in Asian countries. I talked to people from other asian countries like Japan and China. They all worked their butts off studying in middle school and high school. Then once they passed the entrance exam to get into to college, they just messed around and had fun (social gatherings, drinking parties, etc…). One of my Japanese friends said he didn’t even have to go to class, if he didn’t want to and it would be fine. 

    Some Koreans that I’ve talked to at my university said they have to work harder over in US universities. They said that it made their parents happy about how US universities took studying more seriously. I don’t know, if this a true answer how university is like when comparing North America to Asia, but I’ve heard many from Asia say something of that nature.  

    5 years ago
    • Ray

      What Aram and seethingrain have said above is correct. In Japan and China, the hardest part of your education is before university – middle school and high school is extremely competitive and parents go to measures which would be considered insane in the West – booking a hotel near the school so that the students won’t be late because of traffic jams, not allowing cars that pass by schools to honk while exams are in session so as to not distract them, etc. However, AFTER you get into college, it’s a cakewalk, relatively speaking. Education peaks around senior year of high school, then after that its a slide through college and you get a job based on the prestige of your college.

      In the US it’s different, as far as I can tell (I grew up in the asian system), you start off slow and easy, ramp up steeply perhaps during junior/senior year of HS, then you keep going up that ramp to higher education and it plateaus when you find a job.

      So yeah, asian education prepares you, but doesn’t keep you on your toes and you can coast before finding a job. Western education doesn’t prepare you as well, but keeps you on edge until you find a job.

      5 years ago
    • I’ve heard of this too. Nepotism is alive and thriving in Korea. Bosses and CEOs of big companies will hire from their alma mater even if other potential employees are better qualified. And unlike American employers, I don’t think the Korean ones bother to look at the GPA. 

      5 years ago
      • True nepotism is very much alive especially higher up on the management chain, not just their alma mater but families as well. Entry-level into a large company such as Samsung and Hyundai is a little different. Application screening process (not sure what it’s based on though) then most of the time you have to do a test. Because the test is their screening method of a large number of applicants (so many people want to work for corporate giants) I’ve heard it’s intense. It can last from morning to evening and even then you may not finish the entire exam. If you pass whatever requirements they base it on then you proceed to interview. 

        5 years ago
  37. how i wish there was just a foreign place where children can learn freely but strictly as well

    5 years ago
  38. That comparison is similar to any if you compare South Korea with most Western Countries, looks like Korean parents really take an interest in their daughter/sons education whereas sometimes in the West (and other places) parents don’t really bother. However I do see the downside, being forced into a mould and looked down upon if you don’t fit in, not having a fun childhood and constantly studying-these things don’t sound too great but at least there’s less violence. In the West a lot of students time and potential is wasted beacause of violence, drugs, disruptive behaviour, but the West does encourage individuality, but it’s a possibility you may end up being bullied because you’re different. If only we could have some of the social freedom of the North American education system and some hard work and respect from the South Korean education system!

    5 years ago
  39. Oh yeah, I agreed with you guys. As I know, the Eastern Parenthood lil bit different than Western, the mother let say a Chinese Mother, they prepared for their children what we called like basic for future example education, and then mentality support, that’s why when they know their children could barely facing the true of life they have their own basic since they are child ^^.This is how Eastern mother have a big role for their future children. Anyway which is good or not, it depends on how we could see for ourselves and what we needs…

    ps: Sorry If my English not so good, I just want to comment this article, it’s quite good I think. Spend your teenage time with school is good but try to know out of school is more precious though

    5 years ago
  40. I go to school in the Bay Area, and my school gets little to no money but I honestly almost never spend time with my friends during the school week. I do homework and study, and procrastinate in between. I see the pros of the freedom within the American system, but one main flaw I see is the lack of respect there is and the lack of caring so many students have towards education. Education is so available that everyone takes it for granted.

    5 years ago