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!

  1. Hello,
    The article was a good insight into the South Korean education system. I noticed quite a few grammar mistakes in your article and I couldn’t help but point them out.

    From the second to last paragraph the first sentence should start with ” So the point”. In the last paragraph it should be: ” Korean students are much better…”, ” work way too hard.”, and ” Your teenage year…”.

    I love your enthusiasm and quirkiness. Thanks for the wonderful posts :)

  2. I am aa sixth grader from south korea.
    Seriously, I sleep at 1am-2am and wake up at 6pm-7pm.
    I once studied my whole night without sleeping.
    Education is really important, and on 10pm in daechidong(THE place with the most academires-more than 800 but you can walk around it within 1 hour), police cars and mothers’ car (to pick their children up) pack the streets. The cars hardly move. The police get out of their car in action, to look for hagwons that it still operating.
    My mom makes me memorize the textbook,so when she says page 38, I say (for example) South Koreans were dragged into Japan’s territories….
    In that way if you have to write long answers, I can perfectly.
    My mom slaps my face if I get it wrong.
    We are also learning advanced subjects.
    For example, like me, I am supposed to learn about circumference and in hagwons I learn geometric sequence.
    There is a saying really famous that quotes,”If you sleep 3hrs a day, you can go to Seoul University. If 4hrs, other universities. If five, don’t even think about going into one”
    Scary, I believe.
    Also, mothers say that if you want to go to a good middle/high school, you should MASTER (and that means repeating the whole thing at least five times) every subjects till 10th grade (about 11th grade in US) before you graduate elementary.
    Like, WOW>
    I am supposed to do my homeworkand Im doing this secretly.
    I should stop now.
    Anyways, I want you to know this :In Korea, memorizing things is the ‘thing’.
    In Korea, you study 500% of everything, but learn nothing.
    Thanks and I love ur videos

  3. From my experience, I think this is definitely true, though, I have only been, & still am, in the North American education system. Here, school and the pressure school presents is definitely true for everyone. But, the pressure is higher for some people and lower for others. Most of my classmates, don’t really care about school and grades. They find it annoying and pointless. Many of my classmates are even rude to the teachers and school faculty. There’s even vandalism and littering on parts of school grounds. Now, I am NOT saying that every school in North America is just like this, but for the 2 schools I have attended thus far, one being a public school and one being a private school, this is very true. Students don’t really respect the school or faculty and talk bad about them often. I personally care a lot about school and education and there are other students like this in my school and other schools all around America, of course. I try in school and make all “A’s”. While in Korea- I guess- I would be considered successful, here, students think of me as a “try-hard” or a “teacher’s pet”. So, a major issue in the North American education system is pressure from not only your parents but pressure from your fellow STUDENTS. Does this exist in North Korea? In America, where I live and at the school I attend, there is an average group of students. If you’re above that average or below that average, you’re considered weird. I’m not sure if I’m being exactly clear about this issue, but I hope you get the jist.

  4. gilang mukti lestari

    Just found this blog, and sorry for the late comment.

    thought that Korean students really really do have a horrible study life during school.
    but there is something questionable to me, if they’re spending most of their “day” in front of the desk doing such a homework or Hagwon ( if i’m not wrong ), and going to bed around 2 – 3 AM ( It sounds creepy rite? ) .. so, when will they explore what their interest of ?
    it is almost no time for them, even to enjoy their young lifetime.

    Is it ? :’(

  5. Here is a good example of the harmony of Korean and American education. The Principal of ‘Democracy Prep Public Schools’, Seth Andrew was a teacher once in Korea, now runs many public schools in NYC, and accept Korean method over American system. So what? Now so many students of african-americans, hispanics, and immigrants in Harlem go to IVY league and after accept Korean method, public schools turned 1st grade school in NewYork, which means american public school in Harlem can compete with the 1st grade prep school like Trinity School which is no.1 ranked and costs $40,000 a year.


  6. Here is a good example of the harmony of Korean and American education. The Principal of ‘Democracy Prep Public Schools’, Seth Andrew was a teacher once in Korea, now runs many public schools in NYC, and accept Korean method over American system. So what? Now so many students of african-americans, hispanics, and immigrants in Harlem go to IVY league and after accept Korean method, public schools turned 1st grade school in NewYork, which means better than Trinity School.


  7. FAY- ETT-VILLE not fa-yet-vill :)

  8. I’m from Portugal, good old Europe. We have very few tests where we have to pick the right answer. We even call those american type tests. Usually we have to write it. No matter what test subject, be it history or math, we have to write our answer. The logic counts, it’s never luck in guessing if it’s A, B or C, we actually have to know the answer. Good grades count but not for all courses, unless you want to become a doctor, then you need straight A’s. Memorizing is not the way we study and not the way the questions are made, in fact the colleagues that tried just memorizing didn’t do very well if they weren’t out of the ordinary. Best thing about school is always between classes, we go out to play and just hang out. Boys and girls get together and start talking and dating. Boys play football, girls talk girl stuff. And when we finally get jobs I find that most people are well prepared if they wanted to be.

  9. Man… I wish what you said about Korean students were true at my school. I teach at a middle school in the countryside and they are SOOOOOO bad. Almost every single day at least one student is outside the Teachers’ office writing reflection papers.

  10. sorry about comment so long after the video was released, but, as I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I am new to Eat Your Kimchi. I have to say I really like the TL;DR’s.

    I live around the bay area in California where there tends to be more asians than in most places in America and I believe our school experience is somewhere in between. We do compete for the best grades (maybe not as much as in Korea), but we also compete to see who does the most activites (sports, clubs, leadership opportunities, competitions, etc.) and with all the activities and regular school hours put together, many students end up staying at school from like 7:30 am to 5 pm (of course it depends on what activities one decides to participate in) there is also the creativity aspect in which students can decide if they want to take art, music, writing, etc., but people still expect students to get good grades or results in those classes. and usually when people choose to do something like this it is because they are passionate about it. They aren’t doing it just for the sake of putting it on their college application (although there are some people like that), but since they have so many other activities and programs they can choose from, they decide to do the ones that they really enjoy. There are some people that aren’t in the majority though. We do have a couple small groups of people who do drugs and cause some trouble, but i don’t believe that it is as bad as it is in many schools around North America. A lot of people also tend to compete to see who gets the least hours of sleep. Like some will say “i’m so tired, I went to sleep at 3 last night” and another person would say “i’m so tired too and I pulled an all-nighter” or something like that. Although people go to bed really late a lot of the time, sometimes it is because people are socializing and other times it is because of studying. It goes both ways.

  11. Neither is
    better in my opinion. As a Kenyan immigrant to the United States, education and
    hard work have been HUGE in my life. It’s a major component and my family and I
    value them both so much. But I’ve also attended to arts schools here in the
    States, so my creativity has never been repressed and I’ve been encouraged by
    my school system and by my mother especially to find the real me (in all my
    crazy, artsy, creative spazziness ^_^).

    Maybe if the
    two school systems combined or blended in a way, then students and society in
    both systems would be even happier.

    Here’s to
    hoping! :)

  12. Sometimes it’s better to, like, have a safer, more hardworking, respectful society/system like in Korea, AND also have extra-curricular activities which you like and you joining in is your personal choice. So maybe like in countries like Singapore, you can still kind of do that… So…. Yay?
    Anyways, about the ‘Asian-parents-always-push-their-kids-so-that’s-why-they’re-so-smart’ thing, not so true, cuz I’m Asian, I’m a student, and anyway, me and most of my classmates actually are natrually smart, and that’s only where the parents start pushing them, and they don’t really complain much… 
    I have to admit, though, maybe Korea could take it a little easier and give their students a free choice for the activities they want to join in or maybe suggest what activities the students want to do, and maybe North America could notify the parents or something so that the parents can push their kids a little bit more?
    This is only my opinion, spam me if you want, but I’ve always wanted to say this ><

  13. I completely agree. The Koreans are the #1 at studying. I am Japanese myself and I was like that too before I moved to America. But when I see them bored and not paying attention in class. When they get out of school, may it be after a day or after high school or college, they run around and start to like rough house around. Its still bizarre to me because in Japan we don’t act the same. I think its similar to South Korea (Education in Japan) you know. STUDY STUDY STUDY

    and their is a student who was punish by our language teacher that he is not allowed to sit in his chair,,,, he was so pathetic on that time,,, and their were 5 male students and one female who was put outside because they were caught not studying,,, and me and others was studying inside watching them being pathetic…..and then some highschool students who were not participating,,,, during our ceremony every morning,,,, they were not allowed to take their class,,, and stand whole period under the sun…. they were so pathetic… it’s so hot….and then the school principal,,, TROW PLENTY OF BIG HEAVY BOOKS,,, TO SOME 4TH YEAR STUDENTS… THEIR HEAD WAS HIT… OUCH….. i can’t escape! i can’t escape….   

  15. study system in korea is not worst for me,,,, i’m not korean but ,,, i believe that every person really undergo hardships,,,, to lead them not in destruction,,, but to lead them in pretty life after that….. a person who really working hard have been blessed at the last :))  

  16. I love koreans, how wonderful they are, the school system in korea is a little bit same with my school, strict authorities,or teachers,,,, today still i’ve got little bit stress even though it’s our monthly break, next month June 2012 is my class days again,,,, i’m not bored at all,,, even though,,, my friends keep asking me why i’m so different,,,,, “that, why i don’t let myself to have a date with,,,,and i don’t do things that is not in korea….” and why i’m always staying at my home,, always making hard work,,,,i have no time at all,,, no time to join at parties, no time to hang with them,,
    i’m still stress,,,-_-

  17. Sounds like the stress of being there at school from 7 to 10 or later is a major factor in the bullying.  

  18. As a military brat, stationed in Korea for a few years, and then all over the US, I’d say a balance was the best. In the DoDDs schools, there was a lot of the stress on education, and the challenge of pushing yourself to do more and be more, was really strong in the school systems. As a student, I felt adequately challenged with material that the US doesn’t teach their students for years (math and science the two subjects that leap to mind) while still given the lee-way and ability to express ourselves that I appreciated in the American school systems. It was the encouragement to do well and the atmosphere that made the idea of striving hard to do well acceptable by all – no matter your sex, race, religion, or socioeconomic background, partnered with the ability to explore what it meant and how you would apply what you learned with the world around you. I like to think it was a more contextualized educational experience that I really enjoyed as a child. Playtime, group projects, papers, and Korean Culture class. (I might throw it out there that it could be the exceptional teachers I had who really knew how to strike the balance and perhaps not the system in itself. Mad props to teachers who invest and try to make a difference). And I still had plenty of time to run wild, make terrible decisions, have my first kiss and all those other things that we hear our kids tell us years later and never wanted to know. ^.^

    All I know is the balance is key. Children aren’t miniature adults. Allow them to develop and make decisions but also to give them structure and discipline. I don’t know how one could create such a curriculum but good luck to those that try.

  19. Wow, that’s really weird.  I would agree with everything you guys said
    except for the behavior of the students.  In my experience teaching in
    California compared to in South Korea over the years, I have found the
    complete opposite.

    Korean students are MUCH MUCH MUCH less disciplined than students I had
    back home.  At least 90% of the time, students are quiet and attentive
    in class in America, and always raise their hand before speaking. 
    However, in Korea, especially middle school students, they will always
    talk over you through the entire class.  The ENTIRE class will just
    ramble on over you as if you weren’t even there.

    Now, I have a pretty loud voice, and both my and my co teacher literally
    spends at least 1/3 to 1/2 of the class time just trying to yell at the
    kids to get them to quiet down and listen to a lesson.  It seems as
    though students don’t really care about class at all because they just
    have so much of it.

    At the same time, (it only happened once), but when it was said that
    “it’s not like students are gonna go out and break stuff.  That was not
    necessarily true.  I’ve had students hurl a brick through a window,
    literally a few foot from my desk because they were “bored” during lunch
    time and felt like throwing things at the glass windows at school.  Of
    course, the student got in trouble.  But you know, I had pretty much the
    complete OPPOSITE impression when it came to student behavior.

  20. Lol, my parents don’t understand why I drive to my friends’ houses Friday nights to just have fun. They think that I should just stay home and study!

  21. Memorizing is studying, at least in math, and science. Which Korea puts big emphasis on, and for good reasons.

  22. I’ve been told by a lot of university professors that Koreans (and most Asian transplant students in general) have a huge problem with schooling that doesn’t involve sheer memorization.  My father would try to teach general concepts and always said he had problems from these students who were so conditioned to memorization.  I never understood this because memorization is such a bad method to learn things hrmm…

  23. Korean education system needs to encourage students to find out what they are passionate about!!! Passion is a key ingredient for success and a happy healthy life! However, this aspect is very overlooked here.

  24. I agree your opinion between kore and north american student !  and korean basic education sistem have a big problem, exemple I had rearned english in school for 10 years but I could’t speak english  well… exactly I only could speak english that words”Hi, how are you, fine, How old are you?” in foreigner however I stuied english alone for one years….just read english book by myself,,,,,reading book better good than 10years in korean school english education that is curle magic  lol lol lol

  25. I think you should check out the education system in Singapore… its kinda in the middle ( exclude violence)

  26. lack of discipline does not mean creativity…
    discipline doesn’t mean lack of creativity…

    I just hope south Korean students are aware that they could fall into the trap that this video is referring to…the generation that experienced this pain owes next generation to change the system…just like the previous generation’s effort to establish something better than that they had.. fair is fair.

  27. I wish there are more people like you in Korea. If the Korean education changes, i would definitely go back to Korea. I miss Korea a lot..

  28. I wonder if you guys could do one about korean attitudes vs american attitudes? Because i read online that seungri isn’t liked that much by korean netizens because he’s cocky, but i love his confidence. Also, what are some likeable and socially accepted characteristics of women?

  29. Maybe it’s cuz I teach after school, but my kids are crazy compared to what you described kids acting in a classroom. I see both sides though because I co-teach with my Mentor Teacher, and the kids are much more behaved and more interested in their class. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot myself and what you guys mentioned is true. Apart from my students acting up here and there, they all really do work as hard as every other student in Korea. It’s crazy amazing how much Korean students study! But there are things that they can get from North American way of education.

  30. Me and my wife just found your channel! we think you are the greatest we
    have a white pekingese from goong dong near bucheon named kobi (nose
    rain) who has been orange for awhile (tail and ears). Thanks for the hilarious and educational videos.

  31. Me and my wife just found your channel! we think you are the greatest we have a white pekingese from goong dong near bucheon named kobi (nose rain) who has been orange for awhile (tail and ears). Thanks for the hilarious and educational videos.

  32. From what I observe S. Korea education system’s huge disadventage is that they don’t really teach kids to understand and use what they learn, they just make them memorize whole books. But to change the education system S. Korea would also have to change the job market requirements. This kind of education is what korean employers want, it’s them, who check eventual employees’ test results’ records and so on. In my country nobody is gonna check what grades I had in high school to estimate my qualifications and in Korea they do. Korean employers even check whether anybody from your close family commited a crime xX If for example your father has been in jail your chance to get a job will be low. It’s all about not treating people like individuals. They are always part of a family, of a school, of some organization….

  33. Very good observation. You can see both side of the coin. Korea very much like China. East vs West culture.

  34. You have to remember the Korean society is more homogeneous than North America. Remember America is a land of immigrants and individuality is treasured. I remember living in Switzerland, another  very homogeneous society, social conformity was also most important. Thinking “out of the box,” is not a very Swiss thing to do, I was told that by the Swiss themselves. I think because North American kids come from individualist culture and Korean kids come from a culture that stresses conformity, is the reason for the difference. I don’t think either side wins…they are just different.

  35. I’d like to say BOF is TOO MUCH dramatic. not a little ;)

  36. Why are the schools strict?
    Why is it that they take a VERY long time to finish a day in school?
    & Do they have any breaks (ex. Summer Vacation, etc.) & if so, how long?

    • basically, theres normal school like us that ends at 4pm. but then theres like this extra night school thing where after normal day school ends at 4pm, you stay for longer till about 10pm doing more work and hw.
      i guess the night schoool time ending varies, cause kids usually have other separate tutors and test preps to go to but they usually get home from 10pm-2am and then finish hw/review and then only get like 3-5 hours of sleep a day and then go back to school to repeat the cycle.

  37. I want to know if as a foreigner is hard to work in south corea due to all that competition they have?

  38. I’d love to see our two countries (US and Korea) learn from each other. I’m teaching at a hagwan in Yeosu, and gosh my little guys are deprived of refreshment! But their “peers” in the good old US could use a little more preparation academically! Just to show you what I mean, you should see my video of my little 7 year old’s English presentation in class the other day on my blog! HILARIOUS and colorful description of my husband and I in imaginary circumstances! http://everythingbutkimchi.wordpress.com/
    Imagine an American kid doing that in Korean! Bah! 

  39. i disagree about the naughty student part.

    They do commit unimaginable crimes (murder, prostitution, kidnapping, pimping…)

  40. You’r right, When I was a high students, I hate S,Korea education system, It’s so one-way. Fortunately, S. Korea is trying to change to education system, which consider personality. I really hope My children don’t have to do it. However, students in S. Korea will still have to study a lot. Personal active just put their time slot. Many Parents in S. Korea think “Even you wanna be actor, singer, painter, or baseball player, you should study well because of little pay or sort retirement or going abroad.”
    And I pretty sure that he hopes narrow the gap between public school and private school in N.America.  As you know, good education usually makes more rich or higher social class. S.Korea is just good case of public education about gap. At least,It isn’t difference between pubic school and private school not too much,

  41. You’r right, When I was a high students, I hate S,Korea education system, It’s so one-way. Fortunately, S. Korea is trying to change to education system, which consider personality. I really hope My children don’t have to do it. However, students in S. Korea will still have to study a lot. Personal active just put their time slot. Many Parents in S. Korea think “Even you wanna be actor, singer, painter, or baseball player, you should study well because of little pay or sort retirement or going abroad.”
    And I pretty sure that he hopes narrow the gap between public school and private school in N.America.  As you know, good education usually makes more rich or higher social class. S.Korea is just good case of public education about gap. At least,It isn’t difference between pubic school and private school not too much,

  42. Korea isnt the only country like this. technically half of asia is like this including mine == But although we have to do all well and stuff and dont have lotsa fights n other things, i think the downside is that there is a fairly high rate of suicide due to all the pressure that we get from our parents ==

  43. one thing i don’t like about the korean school system is how your test results seem to define your worth in society.  i’ve heard way too many cases about korean students who committed suicide because they failed their exams or something.  its true that korean students are way more well-behaved than north american students, but i wish some of the acceptance and individuality of the north american system could also be implemented in the korean school system…its just way too sad and horrible for someone to kill themselves over a few numbers..

  44. I think the grades and reactions is actually based on the person and their attitude toward what they’re doing. If someone doesn’t like what they’re doing, and they don’t want to do it, in America, they don’t do it, but in Asia, they do it out of respect, which I do admit Americans need more of. But the problem is that Asians aren’t as opinionated or creative as Americans are because they’re held back and busy because of school. They study close to 16 hours a day and think that that’s normal, when it’s not. I also admit that some students in America don’t pay attention and do things like get drunk or high or something, but that kind of thing happens everywhere, so you can’t be biased and say it barely happens in Asia. And as an American high school student, I’d like to say that the work that I’m doing is wayyyy too easy (even though I’m not complaining… LOL). Like I just switched to homeschooling from regular school, and I’m currently in the 9th grade, but I’m learning about multiplying and dividing and about how atoms make up everything in the world???? O.O That’s ridiculous, so I’m now ahead and I’m currently in like 10th and 11th grade everything, which shouldn’t happen. I agree that American students should study more, but not to the extent of Asians, because, let’s face it, kids shouldn’t want to be killing themselves over a bad grade. It’s ridiculous.

    Another ridiculous thing is how long this comment is. Thanks to anyone who made it this far… Sorry, didn’t mean to get carried away… XD

  45. I wish we are North American’s would focus MORE on education the way that Asia does.  I see the down side to Asia’s approach…but a happy medium would be nice.  And MAN!…I deff. wished that N. American kids were are well behaved as Asian’s kids…respect has broken down so much.  I can happily say that I have raised my children to be very much like a balance of Asian/American personality.  They both are VERY respectful and are LEADERS.  They don’t do what everyone else is doing.  They don’t like the appeal of drugs…most of the time they don’t even understand the draw but at the same time…they are very crazy kids.  I mean I have allowed my kids to use profanity at a very young age…as long as they understand content and timing and of course, the crowd when they use it!  To me…profanity is nothing more than words!!!  You give them power by how you use them.  Peace!

  46. Out of curiosity, is the school system in Korea public or private? I find in a society like here in Canada, people tend to undervalue and take education for granted because it’s FREE! for them. When it’s your hard earned money, that’s a different story…

    • Mostly public but they’re not perfectly free, and we do have many private schools as well. Primary school is almost free, but need to pay some money if you go to middle/high school.

  47. I thought u guys have 3 channel? 

    the 3rd one is eatyourkimchiarchive…?or am i wrong?? :s

  48. wow you guys, i’ve never seen the interesting video! actually my major is education in korea, so i’ve though a lot about this.
    i also studed a lot in highschool as you talk, but, sometimes i just want rest time and i want to study the other way. just as i want! but my school and my teacher didn’t permet me. i had to study something in my class with silence, so, it is really not good. NOW, i study like this no more. for  example,i just find the video in english, read a book in english or meet a foreigner  if i want study english. it’s really interesting! (but some students loose their way, what they want to study or how they study, after enter the university. because they just studied what their teachers or parents want as they want.)  But i COULDN’T study like this at that time. i COULDN’T breath comfortably…. i think korea goverment try to change the system of the education. de plus en plus they have to know the other thing more important. Everybody is different. Uniform education is not good definitly.

  49. I have a question about korean life. Idk why but i was wondering if legal stuff in korea is completey different than stuff in north america. Are there any laws or rules that suprised you when you first came to live in korea and also is it difficult to pay taxes in korea being foreigners. This may be a boring (possibly stupid) but i was just wondering. Thanks :)

  50. I guess the Korean system is similar to most Asian education systems. My mom will only think that I work hard if I get 80+ for all subjects.

  51. Korean system just like Vietnamese too. I am in 10th grade and I don’t even know what I like and what I want to do.

  52. In any school system, the most successful students are self-motivated to do their best. A successful student in North America is not only smart, but is also emotionally well-rounded. Then you have the other kids, the ones who don’t care, start fights, etc…in that case, a structured Korean school system is probably best. 

  53. personally, I would like the North American school systems to have a bit more of the German school system aspects, in that there are vocational school and such after middle school. A lot of times in US high schools, the students don’t see a point in learning something they never will use, so they end up bored and do bad stuffs. In the German system, the students can choose an academic school (if they have the grades and can past the tests), a work school to learn about a particular field like management, or they can do apprenticeships for certain trades. In the US, on the otherhand, you laze (or are ignored) throughout HS, then go to college and try to figure out what you want to do with your life. The HS time isn’t really that beneficial. But since you usually can’t find many jobs w/o going to college and you don’t know how to do anything in the field your interested in, you send your parents or yourself into debt paying for four years to learn what could have been learned earlier. By the way, because of their system and the stability of the economy, German universities (which are attended by academia-high school students, while trade schools have their on version) have very very very low tuition (in some cases free) with admission. So I’d love to take some of those aspects and put them into play here (though I doubt the tuition would change. sigh)

  54. I’m friends with a Korean girl who knew 5 people older than her that committed suicide because of grades. There was this one boy, and his mother was really angry at him because his grades weren’t straight A’s. He told her “If you keep screaming at me, I’ll jump.” The mother replied, “Go ahead, I won’t stop you.” So he jumped off the balcony and died.

    The same with the other 4, they got “bad” grades or couldn’t take the pressure anymore; they killed themselves.

    I’ve read somewhere that Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world– especially with children in high school. It’s like all they ever think about is school. My friend said that the only thing that matters are the exams you take for university. Who cares if you don’t have a social life? Who cares if you don’t have free time? As long as you get amazing grades, who cares? That’s [mostly] the mentality in Korea.

    However, it’s not only in Korea. Have you seen Japanese high schools?! I think they’re worse! And don’t forget Philippines. A passing grade is 75%. The priority students in the top universities are in the 90% above. NINETY PERCENT AND UP FOR THE LOVE OF ASDFGHJKL; 

    So it’s mainly Asian countries…

    I currently go to an international-curriculum school, and from the way you’ve described North American schools, it sounds alike. Not only good grades, there ought to be extra curricular activities, too. They also teach you how to think outside of the box, etc. In my opinion, it’s better than having textbook answers crammed into your head that will be completely useless once in a working environment.

    That’s my take on this whole comparing thing…damn, I wrote a whole essay. (See? North American high school ninja training kicking in!!)

  55. Is it harder to acquire English teaching positions there as you continue to get older?
    I would like to do it as long as possible

  56. Going to school in the US is very… difficult.

    My (Korean) mother and grandmother always pushed my sisters and I to do well in school. Get good grades to get into a good college to get a good job later on in the future. It makes sense, right?

    Up until middle school, I attended public school. There were all kinds of students in my classes… Lazy students who slept in class, kids who skipped school, kids who disrespected the teacher and walked out to use the bathroom, kids who didn’t do their homework… basically, there were a lot of students who were a huge distraction to the students who actually went to school to learn something.

    In high school, I got into a really good private school and the environment was better. The students in private school tend to be more focused for various reasons, like: because they don’t want to waste their parents’ money, to keep their athletic/academic scholarships, because they were serious about getting into college…

    Asian students are lucky enough to have that kind of environment in their public school.

    American students tend to focus more on sports and such in high school because colleges offer athletic scholarships for very talented athletes. And if you play for a good college team, you could get recruited to go pro if you wanted. I’m not sure if Korean universities do the same. (Does anyone know if they do?)

  57. well what about the in school gangs like in boys over flowers or she’s on duty i heard bullying is worse in asian schools?

    • They’re more like “cliques”, I guess.

      Although bullying in Korea isn’t very common, the way they bully kids is kind of psychologically damaging. When someone is labeled a “wang-ta”, they are pretty much completely ignored by the entire school. The way that Jan-di was bullied in BOF is a little… dramatic. I mean, the school system in BOF is always completely unrealistic to begin with. I don’t think people would bother wasting eggs and flour on people they don’t like.

      But, in my opinion, going to school where everyone turns away from you and pretends you’re not there is way worse than being egged.

      • @twitter-327943616:disqus I don’t think people would bother wasting eggs and flour on people they don’t like.”Yes, they wouldn’t. They can do something even worse instead.

    • actually, i went to school in korea because i am korean and then i came back over to america and then back to korea over my long school break and attended school in korea again for a short period of time. i have lots of friends in korea as well, and in Boys Over Flowers, they kind of overdo the bullying for emphasis, but there are sometimes some cases where it is like that.
      see, in each highschool there’s always the “head” student that no one goes up against and that would be the best fighter of the school. kind of like a representative of that highschool.. chosen by whoever is strongest.. and when you go against that person or their posse/group of fighter kids of the school, you’re basically screwed.
      there’s also the case of students just walking on the roads [b/c in korea, everyone basically walks and rides the buses and taxis] and lots of kids get ganged up on by other older kids or a group of students and get beaten up for no reason or they get their money taken. so basically they get mugged by other kids.
      i know this because my little cousin was a victim of that, they took like 20 bucks from his person and then also punched several times in the face and our whole family was freaked out by this when he got home..
      really, in korea, there are two different types of kids: the ones who do work, the ones who dont.
      we usually see the ones who do work, but there are still alot of the kids who dont, and they ditch class, smoke in bathrooms, screw around in alleyways and dont go home and stuff like that.
      i mean, as an adult, korea can be an okay place to live, but for students, i perosnally dont think its a good place. america is much safer and like the comments above say, there are alot of suicides not just among the children, but adults as well..

  58. I think it’s all around Asia. Education is very important to the Filipinos too. Wait for the expression from your parents when you get a grade below A. It’s like F. Where ever you go. Coffee shops are filled with students studying. A lot of who part times are also studying.

  59. I don’t know… I’m korean high school student..
    korean education system is so pressure and so many forbidden thing in the school.
    and some korean teachers do violence to student by reason why punishment.
    It makes us feel sad,blue and stressful and so on . Eventually that makes teenager suicide or mentally problem…
     I think that is different meaning of violence…….

  60. I don’t know… I’m korean high school student..
    korean education system is so pressure and so many forbidden thing in the school.
    and some korean teachers do violence to student by reason why punishment.
    It makes us feel sad,blue and stressful and so on . Eventually that makes suicide or mentally problem…
     I think that is different meaning of violence…….

  61. Oh My…Nice Blog….Love what’s written here…BTW I’m new to all this blogging biz..
    Do drop by http://koreanlover07.blogspot.com/

  62. Watching this video, there is really a stark difference between the education in the states and in asia. Even in Singapore, we were pushed so hard to do well in school and I think that that is the typical asian mindset. You should have seen my mom’s face when I told her I wanted to pursue design instead of the usual medicine, law or business. I went to a university in the UK to study design instead of staying in Singapore and creative students aren’t looked down upon in the UK… which was a nice change.

  63. I dont think you can really choose one or the other…
    As a North American student I cant deny that the system is a bit messed up. But it sounds like in S. Korea, (where i hope to teach someday^^) the pressure and hours cant be good for students. I am amazed by my schoolmates who can balance sports/school/clubs/social life etc alone, I cant imagine such a long school day! My experience has been that the system is nothing without good teachers and man I have been blessed with some good ones. I can only guess that its the same in both places.

  64. This is a little controversial, but my experience teaching in South Korea has led me to this conclusion. Sure, South Korean kids study A LOT. But they are also experts at “faking it.” They know how to manipulate the system to do well on multiple choice tests even if they don’t really comprehend the material. They’re also really good at looking like they are paying attention, even though they are really fantasizing about 이승기 or Star Craft. If you ask them to think critically/analytically they can’t. So like Simon and Martina said, they’re great workers but not good leaders. I think that is problematic – although, surely there is the argument that not everyone can be leaders.

    I’m not necessarily advocating that the North American system is better but if I could change anything about Korean work ethic (which includes the school system) it would be this misleading equation (time = hard work or time = knowledge). There is something to be said about the inefficiency of the Korean school system. Sure, they’re in school for 10+ hours a day but I don’t think they’re LEARNING that much more than if they were in school for half that time.

    My students are very bright. Every day they amaze me. But I think that if they were being taught to USE their noodles, rather than rely on memorization alone, they could shorten the school day significantly.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents. More like two dollars. Haha…

    • Hello…I found your post quite intriguing.
      re: Sure, they’re in school for 10+ hours a day but I don’t think they’re LEARNING that much more than if they were in school for half that time.
      My mother taught English Literature (juniors & seniors)  in U.S. inner-city High Schools for 40 years (yes 40) including the kind of students who had Police officers come to class to escort them away. In one such case the young man had been involved in manslaughter (accidental death) off campus. My Mom provided him with journal topics and materials and requested that he write her from jail — saying if wanted to continue to learn, she most assuredly would continue to teach him.For the two years he was in prison, he faithfully wrote and she faithfully graded/guided him. He eventually got his HS degree and went to Junior college. My point is this: education is a journey between the teacher and student. Just sitting at a desk memorizing data is not something I applaud as a technique for creating *whole persons*….people who will challenge and change society.If the student is not mentally ‘engaged’ or motivated to learn….frankly, they could pretend to study for 24 hours straight and the result would be no different from …playing Nintendo for the same amount of time. Thanks for your post. :)

      • Wow, you story gave me chills! This is exactly why I want to teach high school in the States. Thanks for the post. You’re mom sounds like an amazing teacher! 

    • I went to a US school, and I can assure you that I- as well as a majority of my classmates- are also experts at “faking it.” If you pretend like you care, you get away with staring off into space all day and still seeming like you’re brilliant in the process. And if you barf a load of BS that your teacher wants to hear into an “essay” you get good grades too. If you get relatively good grades (A’s and B’s) you are for the most part ignored. People are people. And I don’t think my experiences made me any more of a “leader” or anything. Frankly, I think that I personally would have done better in Korea, but I guess it’s more of a personality thing than anything else.

      • On that note of BSing, where I go to school we have a program which only has maybe up to 30 people in each grade. Students in the program in my grade don’t see ourselves as academically better students, but as better BSers.
        IB? I-BS.

    • You reminded me of a joke card that said:
      The more I study the more I know
      The more I know the more I forget
      The more I forget the less I know
      So… why study?

  65. Here’s a list of countries with highest IQ. Last Updated: 10/11/2011

    1 – Hong Kong – 107
    2 – South Korea – 106
    3 – Japan – 105
    4 – Republic of China (Taiwan) – 104
    5 – Singapore – 103
    6 – Germany – 102
    6 – Austria – 102
    6 – Netherlands – 102
    6 – Italy – 102
    10 – Switzerland – 101
    10 – Sweden – 101

    South Korea is second highest after Hong Kong. The first four countries are from Asia and the fifth country is from South-East Asia, so isn’t it obvious which system is better?

    Source: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/worlds-highest-iq.html

    • This is not necessarily correct.
      The Intelligence Quotient is supposed to measure a person’s intelligence and not his education.
      A person with great knowledge doesn’t have to be very intelligent (though it probably helps) and an intelligent person may not be very knowledgable.

      I’m from Germany which is the highest non-asian country on your list and I can assure you that our school system differs greatly from theirs. A German student normally spends about 5 hours a day in school (in higher classes this may increase to up to 8 hours once or twice a week) but the time is used in a very efficient way. The real problem is not the time you spend on studying, it’s how you spend that time.

      I have to admit that I was always shocked to hear about my American cousin’s school projects because it seemed to me, he was taught about topics that were much too easy for someone his age. So I’m not the biggest fan of the American school system but I would still prefer my child to go there instead of wasting some of the best years in their life feeling constantly pressured und overworked.

  66. Well, I’m Asian but I moved in North America. To be honest, the school system in here are really different from the Philippines. Because, I used to go to school and stay there and study while here in North America the school hours are pretty short. So, I kinda had a culture shock ‘coz it’s so different. Well, yeah I agree on what you said, ‘coz here in North America, I learned to loosen up a little and not feel pressured in my studies. 

  67. Simon & Martina,

    Any chance you two can get a Korean to translate some of these vids and post Korean subtitles. I’d love to show a vid like this one to my 6th grade elementary students who would be interested in the differences in North American vs. Korean school students. They certainly couldn’t understand the dialogue as is, but with the aid of Korean subtitles, would be able to.

    Any chance you can get a local friend to do this?


  68. There’s this documentary coming up on korean high schools and it’s about the pressure to be successful, their insane studying hours, and the pressure to follow impossible beauty standards. And of course the high suicide rate in S.Korea (aka the highest one of the OECD countries).

  69. I taught high school kids in South Africa and I teach high school students in Korea.  My students here are so much more disciplined than my former students but I agree that the creativity is suppressed a lot in many instances.  In terms of behaviour, I still find it funny (and a little sad) that one of the biggest ‘problems’ we had regarding student behaviour was when a second grade boy was seen kissing a first grade girl.  The VP saw them, chased them down and then called in the parents that evening (at around 10pm!) to discuss appropriate discipline measures.  The boy’s parents live nearly 3 hours from my school but they arrived promptly for the meeting which carried on until midnight apparently. 

    The homeroom teacher had to fill out pages and pages of incident reports on the matter, the first grader left the school, the boy was punished (not sure how) and my colleagues were horrified that these kids had “smooched and had a relationship”.  One teacher actually said, “They smooched.   They had a relationship.  What if they now have a baby?”  I pointed out that back home, we’d caught kids having sex at school during class time.  The incident here was minor in comparison: The kids weren’t even on school property when they kissed by it was 7pm so it was during school time and they were across the road from the school.  The kids were mortified that they’d been caught unlike students back home who barely bat an eye when, while chaperoning school functions, I caught them doing far, far worse! 

    It’s an interesting contrast and I can’t honestly say that either education system (South African or South Korean) is better since they both have several advantages and disadvantages.

  70. i’m koreran high school 3grade, I’m gonna die now, cuz scholastic ability.

  71. As an American, I think I prefer the Korean or Japanese school system much better than the American school system. While I love my individuality, and I want my children to grow up and be individuals, I also want them to grow up and be smart and study and be safe. There are so many more chances in America for a child to get into trouble (alcohol, drugs, sex, crime…) at these parties and with their friends than there seems to be in Korea and Japan as teenagers. 

    I think more American schools need to offer more after school programs and clubs and get the kids (teenagers) into things other than ‘hanging out’ (‘hanging out’ sure got me in a lot of trouble as a teenager…). American kids have too many opportunities to be bored. They have too many opportunities to be stupid. They need some focus. 

    Now, I’m not saying the Korean or Japanese school systems are perfect, but I would prefer my children study all the time than have to worry about them doing drugs or getting drunk. 

    By the way: I’m new here…I love your blog! ^.^/

  72. Please read “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” if you haven’t already.

  73. Honestly I am partially one of those students that sleep in class. My friend is Korean and I realize that he studies all the time. He gets great grades in every exam. He goes to extra classes after school, tutoring etc. He barely has any free time to talk to me. He does not participate in many extracurricular activities.  I however (I am Asian) don’t do homework, don’t study and I don’t read books. I only listen to the teachers once in awhile. And the teachers barely teach anyway. They do do the same thing always. Write on the board give some exercises and stuff. Here (Malaysia), we have many extracurricular activities like sports and stuff like that. So if I had to choose between either one of these system’s I would also be really confused on which one to choose.

  74. This kind of ‘let’s study hard’ students/teachers/parents are really
    specific for Asian citizens/people.My parents too always want me to
    study in every minute that I can (except Saturday’s beautiful
    eatyourkimchi minutes),even if we’re living in Europe.It’s just a part
    of Asian people’s nature. Parents want their kids to go to Maths lessons
    outside school,English,play sports,instrumental knowledge etc.Maybe
    it’s just Vietnamese living abroad that do this,I don’t know.
    kids study during the summer too,because it’s the time for studying for
    exams in September.It’s just crazy that every time I traveled back to
    Vietnam that I had to sit and wait at my grandma’s home,because my
    cousins were studying and/or having tutorial.
    Studying is the only chance in less developed countries to study abroad and to have a good job.

    • yeah thats so true (studyinng is the way to get great jobs and living abroad) I’m american but my dad is mexican and both my parents always told me school comes first. Since my dad was really poor in Juarez, Mexico he was only able to finish middle school because he had no money to pay for uniform books and supplies for high school (he eventually got his ged in america) My mom although got As throughout her school years since she got pregnant at 18 didn’t go to college (she later did after her kids group and now has 2 bachelor!!)
      I guess since my parents know that value of education it was and still is instilled in me and my siblings that schooling opens the doors to the world.

      • yeah my parents are both strict too. They are both white but when my brother got a B- my dad grabbed him by the collar lifted him off the ground and started yelling at him :( i was 4 and didnt know wat was going on really but i got soooooo scared after that.

  75. I think the most signifying example of this differing education system is to just compare Apple and Samsung. Apple is creative, while Samsung only goes to that extent of satisfying the known market.

  76. I love Korean school uniform!! It’s so pretty~

  77. a spudgy channel would be great fun   :D

  78. warlock110 warlock110

    missing an o @ “working way too hard”… sorry i just notice it haha.

    asian system and american system need to find a middle ground, both of them push their own system to the point of diminishing returns, alot of asian students are great at doing homework, but that’s it, they can’t apply it to real world problem, the US system on the other hand isn’t forcing enough of a “pathway” to their students, they just let them go on their own, and most of the time the student doesn’t really learn anything either (you let a kid go on by himself, chances are he’s gonna go play instead of study).

  79. Since I grew up in India, I can probably explain the Asian education system here. 
    Most people here see a good education as a means to a) Lead a comfortable life, b) Help their parents lead a comfortable life. 
    Remember that it is only after World War II that Asian countries began to develop, a process that had been started by Europe and North America in the 1700s. 
    There is very little scope here for making a career out of music / sports / arts, so children are pushed to do as well as they can during school. While it does create a stifling environment, children also end up learning the basics of all subjects, which then helps them a lot during College. I know many people who took up guitar / drums / painting / video games after they got a job, so people do have personalities of their own, but we prefer to explore that part after we are “secured in life”, as we tend to put it

  80. I definitely have to agree on some points also. I’m leaving Korea next week and have been here a year, so I pretty much have seen both ends.

    I work at a private academy, but a lot of my students aren’t destructive per se. They actually are more self-destructive. I’ve see OCD elements in my student’s behavior, and nervous tics such as skin picking and hair twirling. In the US, kids are more outwardly destructive. I’m sure most people here knew “that one bad kid that always went to the principle’s office”. I feel like the pressure is slowly driving some students insane, since day in and day out it’s nothing but studying. 

    With students in the US, I agree that there are definitely behavioral issues but not as crazy as the ones I’ve seen here. We’re just lazy, in the fact that we don’t study and it’s not a focus until we get to college (but even then, we’re still lazy about it haha). We at least have time for ourselves, but for Korean students, like you mentioned; school consumes them. That’s why hagwons thrive and exist. But at what cost to the student’s mental well-being?

  81. I feel another thing that’s very different between schools in North America and schools in South Korea is the relationship between student and teacher. Now, my information is just from watching dramas and doing research, but it seems that the level of respect students have for their teachers in North America is a hundred times less than what most South Korean students show their teachers. I don’t feel like this is always the student’s fault, however, nor do I think its a bad thing. On the one hand, you can respect your teacher and cause less trouble, but feel like they’re not there to help you as much as they are to teach you; while on the other hand, you can develop a friendly relationship with your teacher, and feel as if they’re more involved in your learning. I’m the type of student who has always respectful to my teachers, but I never had trouble talking to them if I had a problem, or even just chatting with them about things that weren’t even school-related, because they encouraged me to. Almost all of my teachers here in America were very friendly and laid-back. I feel like this may not be the case in South Korea, and that maybe its another added level of stress for the students? I know it would’ve been so much harder for me if I hadn’t had teachers that tried to understand and were friendly with their students in school, so I can just imagine what South Korean kids might go through, not having that type of support.

  82. It’s clear Obama doesn’t know what he was talking about when he was praising the educational system. In Korea I remember watching a movie a long time ago that criticized the educational system which dehumanizes students and drives them to suicide. But from the comments that I read and commentaries about this subject that I have had come across it always seems that the grass is greener on the other side. Americans looking at the lackluster performance of their kids compared to other countries and wishing that their kids had as strong performance as say Koreans and Koreans chaffing under their educational system and in way looking at the educational system of the US as being less dehumanizing and less pressured which is healthier. 

    • About the lack of pressure… I am always surprised when I meet young kids who don’t care about school. Growing up I had uncles who had studied and had good jobs while the other one’s just barely made a living. So I knew I better study.
      But now they seem lost. Some don’t even learn to write properly. There are no goals.

  83. I agree with you guys. In my classes the students are rude to the teachers and are always saying ” Im bored”, which bothers me because they don’t know the importance of education. But luckily my school is a “Green Dot” school, which do push students and prepare us for college ^_^ .  http://www.greendot.org/

  84. how do u ask a quetion? o_o

  85. I’m glad you guys covered this topic! Thank you! I just took my English midterm the other day and the topic was: What would you like to change about the American system of education to improve our international test scores? 

    As I was writing I thought of the Korean system of education compared to ours and my English teacher loved it. It was tempting to think of Playful Kiss and Kim Hyun Joong while writing my midterm you have no idea!! lol  ^__^

  86. I’m glad you guys covered this topic! Thank you! I just took my English midterm the other day and the topic was: What would you like to change about the American system of education to improve our international test scores? 

    As I was writing I thought of the Korean system of education compared to ours and my English teacher loved it. It was tempting to think of Playful Kiss and Kim Hyun Joong while writing my midterm you have no idea!! lol  ^__^

  87. Martina, you blink a lot. I don’t know why I noticed that.

  88. Where does ones socioeconomic situation come into play here? Have you noticed how this is handled in SK compared to NA? I speak only from my personal experience growing up in very low socioeconomic schools in the USA that the pressure to succeed was very very HIGH! To the point of stress and fear if one doesn’t get the best grades and qualify for scholarships etc. It’s quite a bit more lax here in NZ where my husband is from, and much more personality based. 

    Thanks for a ‘more serious’ TLDR handled with a lot of professionalism as always, hope you guys have a really relaxing vacation in Canada!

  89. the south korean school system and customs are very similar to the chinese system.

  90. IDK if you guys have seen this already, but someone made a documentary focused on Korean high school students.
    The fact North American countries never had to climb from being one of the poorest nations in the world to one of the richest in 60 years also contributes. Helping rebuild your country and bring it to the forefront? Now that’s a real initiative for students…

  91. Simon&Martina u guy hit the nail on this one, * im still a high school student* and a lot of my classmates are SOOOOOO disrespectful to almost all there teacher *the guys in my math class call my teacher by her first name! and a lot of the girls have MAJOR attitudes!!!! and this girl in my bio class want to be a vet, well hate 2 break it 2 u honey but with the u got in bio well im sure as hell im not letting you near my puppy*

  92. is there a lot of plus sizes people in korea like there is in america and are how do they get treated?

  93. 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,

  94. I think it depends on the person, I live in America and the system works for me, I get good grades and get to show who I am but there are a lot of kids in my school who are just bad people and do drugs and all that so I would feel safer in a Korean school lol but I think the Korean system would be too much for me. 

  95. 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.

    • 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. 

    • I’m like you and your friend. My mom and dad also came to america from El Salvador and because they didn’t want me to have hard lives like they did, they push me hard. I hardly go out and i’m always reading at home. Maybe the reason that i take my education seriously would be because of how my parents raised me and i didn’t turn out like the other students in my school. ( a junior in high school :D ) 

  96. 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 ^.^

  97. Whilst i was researching the Korean education system in my sociology class at Korea University a classmate of mine actually told me about the Korea government trying to change the typical rote learning system in Korea. Some kind of “revolutionary” school that focuses more in the individual and enhancing their skills as oppose to hardcore cramming for exams. This initiative is only in their first year so definition of how successful these revolutionary schools are is still up in the air.

    On a side note it seems like Korean students are plagued with exams every step of the way, from elementary school all the way up to job applications (and, probably, then some more!)  

  98. 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.

  99. That’s Asia for you. Where the stereotypical pushing Asian parents come from XD Now for me, I am Asian but ever since my family moves around a lot, my parents have become a bit westernized and they don’t push me or my siblings to have straight A grades or be a valevictorian. In fact all they say about my studies is that I should do well and develop my creativity as well. One of the schools I went to, they gave great importance to grades and for me it was just very stressing and pressuring. I was one of the naturally smart students in class and teachers would expect a lot from me, but sometimes I would argue that studying takes too much time away from my creativity and try to convince them not to give too much tests :P I was considered one of the ‘rebel’ students, but only because I slept in class and was the only girl to have my name listed in the disciplinary notebook XD But still, unlike in Western schools I get really frustrated with the extra curricular activities in most Asian schools. There are clubs but as you guys said, it’s not supposed to be something you should be enthusiastic about. I personally think that too much studying turns students into mindless robots >_< A good example is when there are essay portions in tests, I would get really excited about it but the other students would be grumpy because it doesn't require a formula, you just have to gather your thoughts about that certain issue and express it well. I strongly believe that grades and tests don't define who you entirely are, just because you don't have perfect A's doesn't mean you are a failure. I think while kids are still in their developing years, they should be able to express themselves and discover who they are. Of course not all educational systems are perfect, there are flaws in each and every one but I think it's good to have hard working students yet be sociable at the same time.

    •  Really? My parents want me to get straight A’s so badly that they bully me if i get even 1 wrong!! My parents really think that creativity is a bad thing. I really have a talent for drawing as my teachers say, but when i show them something. they just smack it out of my hand and rip it! I also remember wanting to be in my school’s Talent Show but i didn’t make it and they laughed to my face, “Hah! I knew you wouldn’t get in! You don’t have any talent!”

  100. Hey Simon+Martina Im writing a research paper on this subject, is it ok if I quote you? and if not can you give me something you prefer to say in different words? : ) thanks so much!

  101. The education system in Malaysia is also very focused on examinations and studying too but not as harsh as in Korea. We do still join clubs and somewhat build our creativity along the way but I don’t think it’s enough.
    Also, though it’s really exam-based here, students don’t really put much thought to it cause the standards of getting an A is actually rather low.
    I think it needs more North American in it. :D

  102. 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

  103. I live in the UK and I know our school system is different to North America but I think what you were saying in the video about North American students applies to here as well. You defiantly won’t get people studying all day unless it’s for a really important test like GCSEs. When I was at school the day lasted from 9am-3pm and then I’d go home and procrastinate from doing the homework. We did have after-school clubs but they were for sports and activities, not really for more studying. Of course you’d get the usual bunch of disruptful students which were in the majority of lessons. The only lessons they weren’t in were English, Maths and Science where they were put in the bottom class all together. Man I so did not envy their teacher. 
    Anyway judging by what I’ve read on this site, I think I would’ve crumbled under the pressure if I was studying in Korea. Don’t get me wrong I am a good student and 9 times out of 10 will do the work but I don’t think I’d have it in me to study for most of the hours out of the day. 

  104. In terms of the focus of the two education systems, I’d have to say the Korean reliance on memorization is not good at all. I feel that if you memorize stuff for tests, you forget everything you learned when you start memorizing for the next test. It has no benefit. Yes, there are things you’ll memorize and for some reason you will remember that for the rest of your life, but what good does that little tidbit do you in the real world. You aren’t really learning and it doesn’t increase your amount of intelligence, besides working on your ability to memorize things. In the North American system, where you have to analyze questions, think critically about them, and answer using your own opinions/solutions, it is a lot more like reality. You’ll come across situations, be able to study them and try to come up with solutions. Most problems don’t have a strict solution that can just be memorized in school, it is something you have to work towards solving. 

    And the sense of individuality is better too. You can find your niche in life and work for a career that you’ll enjoy based off of the different activities you’ve been able to partake in. And I can see that being a lot easier when school doesn’t run your life, you are free to go out, be social, and find the things that interest you. 

    Also, the parent stress on education seems a little much to me. I get that they want their children to succeed and get into the best university they can. My parents were pretty strict about making sure my siblings and I got our homework done and that we studied before we were allowed to go out. Heck, my parents still ask me and my sister (we’re the youngest) if we have our homework done, and we’re both in college. But when it came to deciding on where we went to college, it wasn’t if we could get into the best school, into the Ivy Leagues. It was if we found a place that had a major we were interested in, if we liked the school, if it was what we wanted. For my Intro to Co-op class we had to do a self-assesment. One of the questions was, what type of career would your parents want you to have. My parents’ answer was that they “would be happy with whatever you do, as long as you are happy, just like any parent should” (that is a word for word quote). I think this is how the parents should think, support your kids but understand it is their life and they have their own interests.

    Of course their are flaws in both, but I think that the overall focus is better in North America.

    • 한국이 순 단순 암기만 하는 줄 아시네요. 요즘 논술로 대학 뽑는 인원이 훨씬 많습니다. 그리고 수능 공부도 절대 단순 암기식 아닙니다. EBS를 배꼈다는 2012학년도 평가원 기출 문제만 풀어봐도 감탄이 나오는 문제들입니다. 이걸 어떻게 암기로 풉니까.

      제가 미국에서도 학교 다녀보고 한국에서도 학교 다녔는데 미국이 훨씬 빠진건 사실입니다. 미국 애들 한국 고3 교실에 쳐넣으면 3일 정도 지나서 어허헝허엏어헝허 거리며 입에 게거품 물고 집에 가고 싶다고 할껍니다. 제가 다닌 고등학교에서 저와 친했던 1년 선배가 하버드에 진학 했는데 그 분을 폄하하는 것은 아니지만 서울대 간 다른 학생들이 훨씬 열심히 공부했고 더 잘했습니다. 학교에 원어민 교사 선생님들은 우리가 공부하는 것을 보시면 매번, “너희가 미국에 있었다면 전부 IVY에 붙을 정도야”라고 하곤 하셨습니다. 진짜 학구열은 한국이 미국의 몇배는 됩니다. 교육과정에서도 한국이 절대 열등하지 않습니다. 특히 수학은… 제가 미국에 있을 때 갑자기 수학 영재 취급을 받더군요. 

      그런데 미국은 강대국이고 한국은 약소국이다 보니 훨씬 더 열심히 공부한 한국 학생들이 성인이 되어서 미국인들보다 적은 영향력을 발휘하며 살 뿐입니다. 한국인들이 노력 정도에 비해서 보상(경제적으로든 사회적으로든 정치적으로든) 정도가 적은 것입니다. 참 억울합니다 이게.

      마지막으로 한국 교육을 겪어 보지 않으셨다면 짐작으로라도 한국 교육과 미국 교육을 비교하지 말아주세요. 그건 한국 학생들, 특히 수험생들에 대한 모독입니다.

      아 이걸 영어로 썼는데 어차피 못 알아듣겠지. 한국말로 편하게 다시 썼다. 한국 분들이나 읽어보세요.

  105. Before coming to Canada, I studied in Dubai where they kinda had the same education system in Korea. Loads of memorizing. They would even give us the test questions in advance, and all you had to do was memorize the answers. I had high scores but I never knew what I was studying.

    After school, I usually had to go to tutors, and all they would do is help me figure out answers for those tests. Oh and teach me Arabic and Hindi because those were the two main languages. When I came to canda I had to get used to the idea that not studying isnt all about memorizing.

  106. YES!!!!

  107. 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.

  108. 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.)

    • My public high school was very much like yours.  We started high school level courses in 7th-8th grade and were taking AP or honors courses by 10th.  Really does prepare you for college.  Heck, I wrote a 50 page paper in the second week of my APUSH class and my friends at college complain about having to write a 3-5 page paper.  I guess some schools are just different. 

      • The thing about writing papers is so true! In my Freshman English class in college we had to write a research paper, there were people who’d never written them before, or any long essays at all. And I’m sitting there like, I wrote my first research paper in 8th grade and had to write multiple throughout high school. It wasn’t even just AP classes where we wrote research papers. I find it weird how things like that differ between the schools and school districts. 

    • My AP English class caused me to develop the habit of falling asleep in class when I was bored  and that habit has been following me around since. It’s crazy how it varies school district to school district. AP English wasn’t offered until Senior year and most opted to take the regular English class because they wanted a guranteed A for transcripts. Otherwise only a few AP science courses while history was the only one with consistent AP for all four years, but by Senior year a lot took easier classes, even though they were bored out of their mind because it meant an A. Granted, some of those making these choices were also already taking college courses and were half-days at the school. The district board was called “the morons” by my fam as they meanwhile had shady dealings and didn’t listen to the students.

      • At my school, most people didn’t opt out of the AP classes if they were able to take them (unless you were like me and you sucked at math, so you point blank refused to take AP Calc). I think the chance of earning college credit through the AP tests was a good incentive, plus we learned basically the same thing as the other level courses we just moved through the info faster. From what I can remember friends telling me, the lower levels didn’t have as many essays and I think their tests were shorter (less essay questions), but nothing really that guaranteed an A if you moved down because you learned the same things.

        And I’m curious now, what type of shady dealings? That sounds interesting.

    • Yeah, i’m not sure your experience is the same as most…. most high schools don’t require a whole lot of effort. I thankfully went to a satellite school for a half day all throughout high school for my math and science classes… but the University of Michigan blindsided me once I got in there since I never had to study a whole lot in high school. It was a pretty big shock, I never really got over feeling overwhelmed the entire time I was there. 

      It’s weird, i’m going back and taking classes now… while I used to listen to classical music sometimes when I studied, I recently found specific music that is meant to enhance studying (alpha waves are supposed to be the best). I wish I had found this out 10 years ago, I’ve seen such a huge difference in my concentration. I’ve started playing music with delta waves when I go to sleep now as well and i’m also getting much better sleep :D My boyfriend says it’s weird but I don’t snore very much now…

  109. OY, i just started my student teaching in the US, and I’m scared of my students … and they are 6th graders.  I think I would love to teach in Korea but, among a host of other issues, I wouldn’t want to because I’m a wacky kind of teacher and I’m not sure if my teaching style would translate over in

    Korea.  And now I have two semi odd questions.  1) Are there any accommodations for students who have special needs (i.e. learning disabilities, impairments, ADHD, Autism)?  Are they expected to just study harder or is there a system like in the US where you have IEPs and modified instruction or special things like resource room or a specialized school?  I’m not sure if you guys can answer that but I was just curious. and 2) What is Korean university life like?  Is it still the “you must study and only study” kind of life?  thanks if you guys can answer  these questions.  SIMON AND MARTIN 화이팅

    • 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…

  110. i’m korean. 19.
    actually every smart korean student want to  studying overseas or immigrant.
    korean education make him. they are not evolution.
    they are in 20C

    • 성급한 일반화 아닌가요?… every smart Korean 이라뇨…
      저는 나름 똑똑한 친구들을 모아놓은 학교를 졸업했는데 유학 생각하는 애들은 한 반에 5명 정도 있었습니다.
      실제로 유학 간 친구는 1명이었습니다.

  111. 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. 

    • 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.

  112. This was pretty interesting; I love your TLDRs.

    In my college in America, I helped tutor lots of people from South Korea in essay writing at our Writing Center. One of the things we noticed was that while most of our clients did end up being students from Asian countries who were studying abroad (that great study ethic), it was often really difficult to explain the American system of essay writing to them (in general).

    The American essay structure is: Introduction, Thesis, Supporting Points, Conclusion, where the thesis is something (theoretically) new and different, an original  idea the student brings to the table and has to argue to support. It doesn’t matter what the thesis is as long as it’s well-supported. It’s a persuasive essay.

    But the students from Asian countries tended to shy away from drawing their own conclusions and thought that they were just supposed to quote the textbook or the professor. So their essay structure would be more like: Introduction, Main Subject, Lots of Descriptions of the Main Subject. More a descriptive essay.

    It was hard to describe to students that they had to come up with a new idea because they were either afraid they would be wrong or would upset the teacher. So we had to explain that there was no “wrong,” just well-defended and poorly-defended ideas. But they’d look at us and go, “How can there be no wrong idea?” Difficult to explain.

    • Exactly. I taught ESL science in a Canadian high school, and my entire class was full of Asian students from China, Hong Kong, South Korea, etc. They were brilliant. Every question I threw at them to test their knowledge, they aced. But when I asked questions in class to try and get them to apply their learning to something else, they just stared at me. Same with anything that wasn’t putting up a slide on a powerpoint and telling them to copy it.

      This went on for an entire semester. Of course, there were one or two students who would actually engage with the material and think critically about it, but most just sat there and asked me what to copy down from the question. This even extended to extracurriculars. They were all juggling extra music lessons and clubs to make them seem more well rounded on university applications, even though I’m pretty sure 90% of them hated playing piano and french club.

      I feel like they were missing out on the point of going out of the country to study. I was trying to teach them the value of being able to think, but then they asked me where to copy that down from the powerpoint.

  113. This is why I never talk about school.

  114. 3RD Channel for VLOGS :D 

  115. they play really hard in uni though, lol

  116. 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.

  117. (I said that I think korean society will change through generations, but I haven’t talked to many koreans to make a research hahaha I’m not korean nor asian descendant to have some “basis” in this subject. What 나리 said a couple posts down here has basis and is absolutely important and made me more concerned)

  118. 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).

  119. my school system is pretty much my personal hell, u gotta get this and that to get a freakin job in the future or to further ur education, it sucks seriously, there is a lot of pressure to pass school and such in singapore

  120. 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 =]

  121. 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..


    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…!

    • 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…

    • You are 16 in Korean age and you are attending high school right now? If so… what do you mean by “our school is the best school in Korea”? “Best” because students of your school go to good university? If my guess is true, you shouldn’t measure quality of schools by university results. If you think little bit deeper, you will notice that it is those thoughts that bring bad educational environment you wrote about.

      p.s. I graduated DWFLHS as 24th graduate and I can say that I went through one of the toughest education courses in Korea. Three years of high school life was very hard for me. But even in hard times, I was happy and I enjoyed the school life because my friends were with me. Sometimes we stayed all night playing computer game and we played baseball daily even the university entrance exam was coming close. So I can’t say “being a high school student in Korea is like being a studying machine”. Still, it is abnormal compared to education of north America.

       I also studied in Dae-Chi-Dong hakwons but “70~80% of students thought of suiciding” is too much inflated data. I searched through some news data and it says “in year 2010, between ages 15 to 19, 10.1% of teenagers thought of committing suicide.” It is still high percentage but 70% is way too high.

      And “student’s goal of living is to earn lots of money?” Wow… It is too much distorted from the fact.  Students in this kind of mental state can never be an elite or respectable person. True elites don’t set their ultimate goal as owning some buildings in Gang-nam. If you think so because every students near you say so, you should reconsider being friends with them.

    • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

  122. 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

  123. Korean system is more intense in High School. People have a tendency to memorize everything word for word. The US/Canadian system seems to emphasize getting the concepts understanding ideas rather than rote memorization. However once you get to university US/Canadian system can get pretty intense too but I think under the US/Canadian system if you understood the concepts and ideas or the basics before hand it can facilitate the absorption of large amount of material later on. 

  124. Not that I’m completely disagreeing with you, but North American schools/ students aren’t as violent and distractive as you make them seem. At least not where I’m from. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some kids that go in that group, but I wouldn’t classify it as one of the main things about our school system.

  125. 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.

  126. 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. 

  127. “..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.

  128. 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.

    • well much of the parts of Korean education system has been continuing from how the schools were made and constructed during the japanese colonization of Korea (not blaming anything on anybody, but it is true)

  129. maybe they study too hard to get into too perfect universities like Monash or Harvard or Cambridge or something cause those universities have impossible requirements for perfect grades…

  130. 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…

  131. Seriously I think the too hard working students and too exam orientated system is a COMMON SCENARIO is Asia country. I think this happens to almost every single child in Asia. Everyday is school and tuition. That’s true, those with ‘okay’ results go to tuition too. Its rare to find student without extra classes. All parents are so concerned with the results and getting straight A’s is so important to secure a  place in the university cause of the high competition. “You want to get a good job/ better life, get a degree.”

  132. 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.

  133. 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.

  134. I wouldn’t really say that students here are more polite. In class they frequently get up move around, talk over me and straight up do not even bring a pencil or a book to class. Maybe it’s different now but all of these behaviors in school in Canada would have had me sent to the principals office if it happened more than once or I didn’t listen when I was told to change the behavior [which they don't].
    I do think there are pros and cons to both, but they desperately need a punishment system here like after school detention or something.

  135. 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.

    • 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”.

      • 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*

  136. Another flaw with the Asian system is it’s relation to the number of students committing suicide…It can be said that they’re directly related. The pressure from parents/teachers can cause mental instability in young minds.

    • Don’t shoot me for this, but I don’t see it as a problem if it encourages better intellect…

      • 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.

      • 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.

        • 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.

        • I’m thinking maybe this “memorization” style of learning would be good for subjects like Math and Science (since these subjects are heavy on numbers rather than opinions. And numbers don’t like haha). I think Math and Science are universal..err, truths?, then being book-smart would definitely be the case here. But when it comes down to other things like maybe Literature, Philosophy and whatnot, then the Western style of teaching would promote better critical thinking in students. Thinking about it, this would be a good mesh of styles -for it to depend on the subject that’s being taught. 

          Actually, other than English, Math and Science, what do Korean students study? ~Curious :D

  137. 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!!!

  138. Both have good and bad. Though we’ve seen how both sides act on the internet, where there are no boundaries. 

    For all the students & people wishing they were in Korea for school, there are probably just as many who wish to escape the Korean education system. The grass is always greener on the other side, it seems.

  139. With my lax personality, I’m actually scared to try the South Korean system. haha

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

  141. 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

  142. 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.

  143. I agree with this totally. I’m like a living example of Asian and North American education system. I’ve gone in high school and university at both system and I can tell you it’s like a 180′ adjustment. I was educated in the Philippines from Nursery School – 2nd yr University. Then, I moved to Canada and did Gr. 11 – (presently) 2nd Year University. They’re TOTALLY different. Asian schooling focuses on hard core straight out facts, rules and structured learning. While North American education is more analyzing and dissecting facts and/or explaining and synthesizing concepts. 
    Another huge difference is Asian schooling is really really focused on High school. I had like around 17 subjects in high school. My classes start usually at 8:00 am and I finish class at 6:40 pm, and I still had projects and student council stuff to do. While here in Canada high school starts at 8:30 am and ends around 2:40 I had a maximum of 8 subjects the whole year, which is divided into 4 per semester (very convenient) and you can totally get into University with crappy marks. I even slept through my entire gr. 12 class and still get excellent marks (this maybe due to hs spoon feeding. where “exam reviews” is the exam itself). I think this is why North American kids say that University is really tough, Since they didn’t have enough time to transition into a heavy work load in University. But in retrospect while attending high School and University here I never thought I would be able to juggle a lot of activities. In the Philippines, I barely had time to attend club activities and do student council work but here in Canada I had time for a part time job, clubbing, dating, hanging out with friends and even doing homework.   
    I think Martina and Simon are totally right that they have both pro’s and con’s and well you just have to live with what you get.

    • wait…you’re confusing me. The 17 subjects you are talking about, do you mean high school or university? Or is that just an exaggeration? Can you please explain your experience in the Phil. a bit more…Cause I have the feeling you’re talking about the units of the subjects instead of the number of subjects. I mean, I’m pretty sure high school has 8-9 subject and that includes PE and Religion.
      As for College/Universities, there’s a a maximum of units that a student can do. I can’t remember but I think mine is 21(something along 20)? Somehow I think it depends though on the school.

      I will admit though that the schedule can be pretty tight even in college. But I think that depends on the course you take and which school you took it in. When I was a freshman, I went to a big university and took up a course that my parents wanted.
      I understand.Though from experience, I still think you’re pretty lucky that you’re classes started at 8.My class started at 7 am till 5(it went to 6 by the second semester). But then I found out that other courses had half day schedules that are more lax than ours. Granted, the course I took was Architecture and it was one of courses that the school was known for. Thank God I convinced my parents that although I decided to give it a chance that the course just wasn’t for me. I also changed schools since I couldn’t take the on the dot 7 am classes anymore. I lived pretty far as well so I had to wake up at AT LEAST 5 am so I won’t be late.
      I mostly agree with what you say. Though I don’t think that the Asian system(Phil.) just focuses on hard core facts and structured learning. There’s also a lot of analyzing and synthesizing. Maybe it depends on the school a person goes to. The school that I grew up in(nursery-high school) focused a lot on essay types of exams rather than objective exams. College is pretty much the same with all the writing you tend to do.

      • It’s definitely high school. I was in a specialized school back home and most of our subjects were Science-Math-English focused. Its not an exaggeration more like we have 2 version of Math (Trigonometry and Algebra II in Sophomore year), 2 versions of Science (Earth Science and Technical Research in Freshman year) and 2 versions of English (World Literature and Journalism in Senior Year). We also had those art, music, home ec, health, phys. ed classes. We also had language classes (french). We had those extra research classes (ex. Research I, II, etc). Advance classes for next year (ex. Intro to ___). Normal school really had 8-12 classes back home. But by my Senior year I think I had 17 classes. I was also in a Science High School, meaning their government funded and they give you an allowances to study. So the faculty and school try to squeeze as much knowledge to your brain as they can. There are analyzing and comprehension parts in the subjects as well. But they were more focused on facts than let’s say here in Canada. And everything did depend on the school I was just citing some from my experience.

  144. 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. 

  145. 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..

  146. 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.

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

  148. 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.  

    • 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. 

      • 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. 

    • I’ve heard this too, from friends who spend a lot of time abroad, and from Visa students that I’ve tutored. Apparently, over there, high school is an intense regimen of constant studying and cramming, all in preparation for the penultimate university entrance exams. And then, when they get into university, they coast through it. Over here, it’s the complete opposite. You bum around for 12 years, aren’t required to take any entrance exams (unless you take the US’s SATs), and get into university by virtue of the marks you didn’t have to work hard to earn. But that’s when shit hits the fan because the 12 years you just spent in school have not prepared you for the hellhole that is post-secondary North American education… So maybe it’s a matter of preparation? I dunno.

      • 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.

  149. how i wish there was just a foreign place where children can learn freely but strictly as well

  150. definitely, the systems are so different cuz the countries are super diff.
    my parents are from somewhere else too and like, if u studied us a$$ off, then ur good for a job… but lots of the kids don’t so they go off and start families and get jobs…ur also def right about the whole more individuality, less knowledge, and a bit more violence aspect of North America… i mean… im in college right now… and i don’t like what im doing and i want to do what i want to do… (be individual and all that jazz) XDoh life, the many contradictions u hold =w=;;;

  151. Excellent discussion.  I’ve noticed this too between Japan and the US (same basic difference), and I always thought it would be nice to somehow merge the two.  Take the respect for teachers and eduction you have in Asia, balanced with the freedom to think and explore you see in the US/Canada and you’d have a great system.

    You’re right, both have pros and cons, but it would be nice if they could somehow learn from each other.

  152. http://vimeo.com/26833191

    You should check that video out! It’s a trailer to a documentary a student is filming about the South Korean High School life, it looks pretty amazing. 

    A small description, “In sixty short years, South Korea went from being one of the poorest countries in Asia to having the world’s 13th largest economy. Korean students have some of the highest test scores in the world, and a higher rate of acceptance into American Ivy Leagues than any other foreign country. But Korea also leads the world in two not quite so stunning ways- the highest rate of plastic surgery per capita, and a higher suicide rate than any other developed nation”

    • i sent this to simon and martina too! i hope they see it.

    • 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…

      • 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

  153. 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!

  154. 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

  155. 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.

  156. I would totally subscribe to the spudgy channel.

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